“Dunne and Raby claim to not to be interested in futures so much as in ‘alternative nows: how things could be right now if we had different values.”
I’m suddenly inspired to talk about how design(future) research can be done in three ways. One is to make a new/futuristic/historical/imagined product and introduce it to the cultures of today. The second in to build up new/futuristic/historical/imagined cultures and act them out within todays culture and products. The third is to combine Culture and Product and perform an act of immense imagination and construction. Each of these adds something new to our understanding of a desired scenario and the steps we might take to get there.
Imagine a future where everyone rides bikes. Through improved aerodynamics they have become the most effective way to get to work. They have protection from the elements and they take up almost no space in the special parking pods located at every street corner. Moreover, everyone rides so no one has to worry about getting hit by a car.
Now Imagine that you are from a future where everyone bikes. You come to this present and find that the roads are dangerous and the infrastructure isn’t quite there. Moreover, todays bikes are slow and cannot be ridden comfortable in bad weather conditions.
Now we try designing a product and system for the future of bikes. This looks a lot like the design testing we are familiar with, if not a little more informed. We build a velomobile that allows the user to bike in the rain without getting wet. We test this out. Many users still feel unsafe so we outfit a few test subjects 30 mile commute routes to work with temporary bike paths. Now we have created an incredibly efficient and safe method for people to get to work and yet we find that 80% of our users still prefer to drive to work. They say that their car is still faster and that they just don’t always have the time to bike. Also some of them were already taking the bus and enjoyed being able to work while commuting.
We look back at our imagined future and wonder how we can address the concerns of our users. How does public transit fit into our scenario? Can we have long bikes where everyone pedals while they work while a person in front acts as a driver?
These three things tested we can begin to draw a line from where we are and where we want to be and put some of the roadblocks down in between that we will have to design around when considering a transition from now to then.