where we were going, we wouldn’t have needed roads

It’s exciting reading media criticism along with the more affirmative design fictioning work. If much of our reading has dealt with how design fiction can reach an audience, if it can, and how we can make it have an effect even if it does, “Things to Come” takes a decidedly critical view. The argument has more to do with the potential effects upon nearly anyone that the visioning projects of HP and Microsoft may have.

What I find engaging about the piece is the line between advertising and futuring: it isn’t quite advertising because they are not promising to make anything in the video, but they still bank on you anticipating such a future and having such an anticipation justify spending on that company’s present offerings. Kinsley writes that “one should enrol into this aspiration, and buy the soon-to-be launched device more widely advertised by HP or Microsoft, because we are compelled to believe that is the way the future is developing,” (2779). This argument is partly tangential to what Kinsley is trying to argue about the embodied affective experience of these visioning activities, but it is an interesting line none-the-less: why is it worth it for a company to make an design fiction video for products that they may never produce? In the above example, Kinsley compares the fiction to a “soon to be launched device,” both are unreal but there is something seductive about the one  fictional future that gets you invested in the close-to-reality device.

The expectation of “the next big thing” is always an expectation, critically, it is not something that can be delivered as such. So how can you be a part of the “material and always deferred present future”? That is, if it is always deferred, how can you be materially a part of it? It is a little fuzzy to me, but it sounds like Kinsley would argue that you are connected to something that contains more “somatic markers” to help affectively tie you to that kind of future world. That is, in the case of certain gestural interfaces, it seems a little like you participating in a small-scale, dull version of an amazing future of complex gestural interaction. But you’ll never get there because a past anticipation is “still an anticipation and will remain having been an anticipation for all of time.” It reminds me of how we are now in the year of Back to the Future. But, of course BTTF remains an anticipation rather than an actualization. Even if we had all of the technologies in BTTF it would still remain an anticipation because the rhetoric of discovery and disbelief at what the future has become (within the diegesis of the movie).


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