the future of the future of spectacle

Auger’s article, “Speculative Design: crafting the speculation,” presents several models for creating a “bridge” to engage the audience, to compel interest in the speculative presentation. All of the models, Auger notes, take design outside of commercial constraints, but through reading the article and through my own brief experience with design fiction, I wonder about another constrain in which this sort of speculative design enters: the need to engage. I suggest that by needing creating a widely engaging speculative design, we put design in another, if larger, box. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but something of which a lack of awareness could be damaging.

Just recently, in an exercise with the BioSynth Tarot cards, I found myself driven less to creating a plausible future than to create an exciting narrative of that future. In fact, it might be that the latter was driving the former. Auger’s article is all about creating this kind of engagement and seduction for an audience: he favors the success of projects like his tooth that attracted wide media attention partially because much of the audience did not know it was “fictional,” or, nonfunctional. Again, I do not necessarily dispute that there is value in reflecting on what it means to create implantable biotech products, but this technique of cloaked, war of the worlds style injection, in particular seems more interested in engaging than it does in creating the reflection.

As a final caveat, the two goals of engagement and audience reflection can be mutually beneficial: the more people who know about a speculative design, then the more people who can hypothetically reflect on the issues raised by said design. But what is missed here? What about the designs and the futures that do not tell a compelling story? What about a future in which everyone is a little bit happier or healthier? Is there only way to get people to consider these mild and mundane futures through a compelling narrative, or does the fact that we need to have compelling narrative preclude the possibility for having less engaging forms of speculative fiction?

ps, just glancing through the posts, I notice that this post is somewhat in conversation with Stephen’s post! Good times.

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