The F Words

‘Future’ and ‘fiction’. The words share many casual connotations, but when applied to design practice they are sterilized, scrutinized and dissected. Markussen, Knutz, Franke, Gonzatto, van Amstel, Merkle, and Hartmann take a scalpel to the anatomy of the future and its relationship to the present.

Statements like, “The fictional is understood as an intentional act of creating the fictional in order to distinguish it from the fictional in the sense of non-real, lie, or deception” become tangled attempts of defining methods and practice. While the parsing of these terms seems like masturbatory academia, I recognize the importance of these words in relation to actionable change though critical design.

The most insightful thought amongst these theories is the idea from Franke that all design is about the future. He states that a designer imagines what could be and works to make that a reality. There’s an overarching theme in these writings on the present, actual world as a main determinant of the way a designer creates futures. Gonzatto, van Amstel, Merkle, and Hartmann argue that it is impossible to remove oneself from their current state. I agree with their statements on these implications of present-rooted futures as stimuli of change. Our purpose as designers should be to cause political action and social change of the present, rather than proposing idealized futures where the political and social structures remain unaltered.

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