Non-Diversity

I find Cameron’s criticisms of “DnR’s” work interesting, notably the lack of diversity in speculative design work. It has become very apparent to me, as an American-born Asian female, that much of speculative design work comes from white Westerners. Whether or not that is a good thing isn’t really something on which I can elaborate. However, now it is even more clear as to why this is so. In his citation of the case of the Pakistani design school being generally against the idea of typical speculative design, the problems I see as a student in a prestigious university versus a world fraught with conflict, I, comparatively to that of a Pakistani design student, see the world differently. I feel that I take for granted every day that which is given to me. I complain about how hard school is, how difficult it is to find a job, how my relationships keep failing, how sad I am, how much sleep I lack. And yet, I have the privilege to even talk about speculative design. Is speculative design a privilege to begin with? I’m not sure, but it seems that only the privileged practice it. As a designer, this is rather conflicting. I think that it is common sense to focus on problems of the now – that’s an obvious and apparent thing that most anyone can get behind. I’m not saying that speculative design is useless or that it’s first-world problem solving (see my previous post), but of the many philosophical questions designers have to deal with, is it something that I want to spend time doing? Then again, maybe I should stick to what I know – how do I design for the third world if I have never experienced it before.

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2 thoughts on “Non-Diversity

  1. I’m not sure how much I agree with what I’m about to say but I’m going to use this opportunity to publicly argue with myself. This concept of privilege is extremely conflicting to me. It inflicts this nasty guilt that asks us to shy away from dealing with certain issues and focus our energy on very specific problems that help those that are less fortunate than us. It shames us into thinking that we shouldn’t be complaining shouldn’t be speculating and shouldn’t continue making because it is a privilege to have the time and resources to even be considering those topics. So then what do we do? Ignore the problems we face everyday, ignore the problems we understand the most, and ignore everything and satisfy our guilt, satisfy our need to feel like we’re contributing to a larger cause, bigger than ourselves, sitting in twin xl beds at a fancy pants university? But then again, if we have the resources shouldn’t we be opening our minds and figuring out how we can help those that can’t have the same resources at their immediate disposal? People are people, no one is better than the other, so how do we create a world and culture that encourages everyone to help everyone. How do we ignore our selfish nature to compete with each other but compete for the best solution together? I think the real question is what, as designers, do we think we’re responsible for? How do we encourage and teach ourselves the concept of responsibility within our field, and how do we prioritize these overbearing expectations? I’m pretty sure I’m rambling but this is the nature of my conflict. Disorganized and angry.

  2. I think what is considered “future” and what is considered “speculative” is relative. One person’s future may be another’s reality and vice versa. I don’t think that future or speculative design is only possible in the context of “first/western” world problems. There is the possibility for someone in a different context to imagine a speculative future to their present. What does the future of communication, transportation, water treatment etc. look like in a third world country. It might not be as flashy or stereotypically futuristic as the future of emotion tracking in a modern western home, but it is speculative all the same. We might assume that this future would look a lot like the present of a first world country but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Although there might be bigger problems to focus on immediately in a developing country, I think speculative design still has a place in these contexts. They still need to think about where they are headed and the possible implications of changes and advancements that are being put into place right now.

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