Alt Family Expanded: More More Weirder

My idea for an alternative family scenario building game got a lot of great feedback.

Do you want to use different colors for mother and father node? It could help in determine whether in a three parent situation there are two mothers and a father or two fathers and a mother.

Why didn’t you turn the entire concept of family on its head? Remove the titles of mother, father, brother, and sister, and start to explore what a family looks like when a sisbro and a momdad live with their googoos on alternate weekends.

I love the idea of more complex and unrealistic graphs. Relationships that would never work in real life but that can be experimented with. Also I think it would be interesting to consider dynamic roles.

I also did not get to build it out as far as I would have liked. For my final project I want to take into consideration the feedback and then also set up an alternative Families workshop where we spend an hour playing this game and talking about why it’s important to consider what families could look like in the future.

Alternative Family Structures Scenario Builder

IMG_3619FamilyGame-02 FamilyGame-01

Throughout history between and within millions of species there have been many more millions of ways that families have formed. From the mother eating the father after sex to the mother and father being close lovers even long after they have stopped producing children.

There are many ways to raise a child and many ways to love. Most people in America today limit themselves to the mother/father family structure even as extended family ties dissolve. Many alternative family structure, no matter how harmless or great, are stigmatized for no clear reason.
This is a creativity tool to help people visualize and understand the possibilities for alternative family structures.

How to Play:
You are a child node to be filled with a family structure that has contributed to who you are today.

Draw a card from the family structures deck and a card from the scenarios deck.

Spend sometime building out your scenario then present it to the larger group.

Here is an example story for the two cards featured at the top of this post:

Mother was always an expert at managing her two families. Once she took both families on a trip to barcelona. Her other partner, whom she had two kids with—my “mystery” siblings, is a nice person but really not at all a parental figure to me. Though we normally live in separate houses, we shared a four bedroom apartment in Old Barcelona. My mother alternated nights between my dads room and her other partner but we all went out together during the day. There was one night where my mother did not return for a night but neither my dad nor my “mystery” parent seemed at all worried. They took us all out to dinner. After dinner I played on the beach with my “mystery” siblings. I’m the youngest and my older siblings tended to do their own things. I’m pretty much best friends with my “mystery” siblings.

Crappy references:

Glazing Over the Tech Doesn’t Make it Disappear

I think this article is a little bit forceful. I think that Her is incredible and puts forth a very different take on the future than the sci fi movies we’re used to. But If their goal was to make technology fall into the background while also not being that different from what we have today I think they got a little lost.

There are a few things I want to point out.

This first one is a little petty: 

“The skyscrapers in this futuristic Los Angeles haven’t turned into towering video billboards a la Blade Runner; they’re just buildings.”

I would say that many buildings today are more like the ones in blade runner (all biet scaled down a bit) that they are like the ones in Her. And I would imagine most people find that unfortunate. I think that this quote supports less their argument about how tech will blend into the background and more the idea the Her is an idealized concept of the future where — somehow — advertisement stopped being necessary, while Blade Runner looks at a future where advertising continues on it’s current trajectory.

This Is Important:

The article also glazes over the negative aspects of talking as a primary UI. Certainly there are a lot of time when voice is a great hands free UI, but there are other times where a mouse, or some other crazy future tangible interaction device will be incredibly superior. Her, conveniently, follows the story of a letter writer. Someone who’s job relies on capturing the words and the tones of his words and converting them into a faux handwritten letter. Of course the ideal UI is one that relies on voice. Now show me what the UI is for the architect creating those billboardless buildings. Please tell me its not the imaginary gestures that Amy Adams does in the side of her table as she navigates her UI while talking to Phoenix.

And then theres that! What do we do about mindless tasks? The article fails to mention that, while they’ve removed the ouse, these screens DO in fact require you to learn a non intuitive set of gestures to perform simple talks like navigating your file system while explaining the video you’re about to pull up.

I think that her does a great job of showing a lot of ways in which technology could be dissolved and melded into the day to day for a lot of things kind of. But not to the degree the article claims. There will always be technical jobs that require things to be technological. I also believe, that in a future where technology is advanced enough to fall into the background, there will be a need for a hell of a lot of developers. And what better way to create a ton of developers than to expose everyone to technology every day?  And to be honest, I think the Her future captures this, but doesn’t show the full picture because it doesn’t fit into the story they are focused on. I think the earpiece is more intrusive than this article lets on. And I think they the computer screens in the movie require a ton of learned skills that the article turns a blind eye to.

I conclude this post by repeating what the article says at the very beginning. This move is not about technology, it’s about the validity of relationships. They chose a character within a high tech world that intentionally avoids the invasive technological advancements in that world, so they could focus on the more intentional philosophical statements they were making about romance. Just because the movie doesn’t show the technology, doesn’t mean that technology isn’t as pervasive and apparent as it is in other futur portraits.

Systems of Rationality >> RE:Thomas

Thomas, I think you make a fair point, but I also believe you might have settled on your view of rationality. I believe this piece makes a valid point maybe not about being weird for weirdness sake but about accepting weird as valid; for weirdness is not always something a person chooses and to write it off as irrational is fascist. Not that I think you are doing that, but you are encouraging perceived weird people too attempt to see through a lense that they don’t necessarily need to see through. I think your response is littered with the privilege of having been raised to understand and think through a single lense of rationality that happens to have a large backing of powerful people today; a lense of rationality not far from that which has been prevalent in the white culture—particularly white males—for thousands of years.

I’ve begun to question my own sense of rationality more and more over the past few years. I had a few friends who really challenged my values and out of respect for them I chose to ignore the rational I had behind those values and accept and support what they had to say. After letting going of those rationalities I’ve begun to accept things I thought to be weird is a bad way and can no understand the rationale I had before.

I’m tempted to fully agree with you that in order to convince people we must learn to speak on their terms of what is rational. But I fear that in order to truly understand someone else rational you must forget your own. Perhaps that is what everyone should be doing. It’s a scary thought, though, to imagine everyone letting go of their current systems of rational.

This is a half baked response, but it includes concepts I’ve been mulling over for the past few months. This idea of letting go of your current systems of rationality with the intent of understanding new ones is tied together with a concept of emotional reconstruction I’ve been actualizing. I could talk about this for hours with anyone willing to help me build up and crash down these theories.

Collaboration of Method rather than of Values

I don’t think a diverse set of types of intellectuals is really necessary or ideal for building a conflicting and diverse set of desired futures. I think most of the designers in my studio have as varied desired futures as the full collection of people in line for a sandwich at Gingers right now. I think what is really great about a group of not all designers is that the process is fresh to these people and through misunderstanding we make discoveries that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Another benefit of designers working with other experts is that there are a lot of theories  and methods that run parallel to one another that can be recognized or newly discovered in one field while having been a core concept for years in another. Things like visual gestalt were used in design without a thought and explained by Psychology, or, better yet, things like induction, a key concept in computer science and mathematics, that can be applied to design when attacking wicked problems; how can we create a solution on a local level that can recursively expand to the global context? Can we prove that if this solution works on one human it will work of the next two humans and then the following 4, 8, 16 and so on? Man I really want to try writing proofs for design solutions… maybe if I start with something we know to have been successful via scalability or something, writing an inductive proof for it could be possible and then informative.

on a separate note:

“although Science Fiction narratives may initially appear to be focused on the future, “more often than not they are actually concerned with issues contemporaneous to their production” (Clear, 2009; p9) and so they offer their contemporary audiences an opportunity to reflect on both their current situations and their hopes for the future.”

Design Fiction aims to impact our current-day concepts by enabling designers to think of directions in which our collective future is shaped, while also acting as an accessible tool through which we can engage members of society in a dialogue about their individual hopes and fears.

Notes In Quarantine For The Fecal Protection Association

LOG ENTRY: January 30th 2020

FCPAIts been one year since the E-Coli wars broke out in the United States. That marks 4 months of my service locked up in this safe haven of health and fitness in bumfuck Nevada. This state of the art facility sits just below the topsoil. Solar Panels on the surface create enough power to light and a sustain this place. Expert biologists and herbologists have set up a diverse and sustainable ecosystem of plants and animpooppillals. The food and oxygen produced helps keep me and 100,000 others like me alive down here. Every day 100 trucks pull up overtop this discrete solar field in the middle of the desert. They sit for about an hour. and then they all drive off in different direction across the country. They are delivering our shit to hospitals and disaster zones. 

Our shit wasn’t special 5 months ago. Infact, if you are reading this, chances are your shit is as similar to mine as mine is to anyone else’s in this sterilized and isolated shelter. You see, for years people have known that antibiotics cause plenty of side effects. One of them was known to be the depletion of healthy bacteria in your gut. Normally these bacteria help keep at bay a harmful bacteria called Clostridium difficile or C. Diff. When these good bacteria are killed off by antibiotics, the C. Diff is free to infect the colon eventually causing it to rupture. Before the E-Coli wars this was the cause over up to 30,000 deaths annually and costs the US up to a billion dollars a year. The treatment is simple. In order to restore the bacterial balance in the antibiotics user one must simply take a capsule of healthy poop matched to your genetic bacterial needs by mouth thrice daily.

Today, almost everyone living on the surface is on regular antibiotics to help fight the constant E-Coli outbreaks. Thats why they set up this facility along with a few others meant to serve different human organics harvesting purposes around the country. We are all here as volunteers to serve our country, but you could hardly say we had a choice. We were simply the ones lucky enough and healthy enough to be put in this place where we are guaranteed protection and fulfillment.

My girlfriend had a history of flu and was therefore marked as having a badly suited immune system. I haven’t seen her in four months; though, I have gotten the chance to video call a few times. She said she sent me the latest male-end device from Commingle but I don’t think it made it through the contraband office. She bought it used and they are very harsh about letting any contaminants into this place. Anyway, she understands that the people at this shit factory are the most pristine and attractive you could possibly imagine. I won’t lie to her and say that it’s not one giant love party on the weekends.

My routine each day is pretty simple. They don’t make me do too much aside from read, exercise, eat and poop. Most of which is automated aside from one weekly checkup with an expert to make sure everything is still in perfect condition. I’m excited for this war to end, but I’m also happy to be serving the country in the way that I am.

The Mutant Journalist

THE YEAR IS 2038. Counterfeit genetic modification is readily available to all those who can afford it, worldwide. The catch: to prepare your body for genetic modification, most people need to take some dangerously addictive and destructive free-baseable drugs. The widespread use of such drugs has effectively ended their taboo, they are available everywhere and potentially much more harmful than many previously illegal substances. You need to use such drugs semi-regularly for the effects of genetic modification to hold, otherwise your body returns to its unmodified state. Desperate for drugs and sustained perfection people resort to the reverse engineered versions of the synthBio cocktails from Beijing that are ⅓ the cost of the brand name American versions.

The Journalist participates rabidly in the culture of genetic modification; she is in constant need of the drug to maintain such modifications and in constant need of money for more modifications. The Journalist reviews these genetic modifications for the ubiquitous online store — The Store, influencing the choices of billions of consumers. Though it’s a well paying job, she needs more in her life. She takes money from the brand name American manufactures to give bad reviews to the counterfeit genes being manufactured in Beijing. Though the gene modifications are biologically identical and since copyright laws still do a poor job in the global marketplace, The Journalist’s bad reviews, though highly illegal themselves, push the already wealthy American gene modification companies into even higher profit margins, with tremendous benefits to our journalist.

And a tangent while reading the futures of everyday life

“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.

Initial Thoughts on Critical Design

In response to the section on associative design:

It seems to me like everything started off as associative design. The first chair was a tree turned sideways and then we turned the on end and made a stump and then eventually threw some limbs on as legs and slowly the building and warping what we associate with chairs and trees.

Association is also a perspective thing. An adult might associate a box with shipping goods while a child might associate it with a cart via which they can slide down the steps and risk breaking their neck. Associative design can be an interesting way to bridge perspectives. Paint a bunch of rollercoaster carts to look like fedex boxes and we have fun way of putting adults back in the world of children.