Is speculative design only meaningful when it has an audience?

There’s a renaissance of space expedition entertainment that’s been picking up pace in the last few years: Battlestar Galactica, Halo, EVE, Wall-E, Avatar, Mass Effect, District 9, Moon, Elysium, Europa Report, After Earth, Apollo 18, Oblivion, Kerbal, Gravity, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Ender’s Game, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Jupiter Ascending — not to mention the resurgence of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Doctor Who, and real-life developments from SpaceX, NASA, and Planetary Resources. Cinema has a fantastic way of engaging with an audience, allowing them to, as Brian David Johnson would put it, “accept the imagined future as real, plausible, and acceptable”. What strikes me about *most* of these movies is that the futures they present actually seem plausible — they are modern Space Opera; there’s not a whole lot of Asimovian SciFi going on in popular science fiction.

Humanity, I think, is yearning for a new age of exploration. We *want* change. We don’t need to resort to tropes of death, dismemberment, the uncanny, and anchors of reality in order to “elicit audience engagement”. The desire and willingness to accept design fiction and design futures into the milieu is not something we need to instigate — it’s already here.

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