One quote stuck out for me in these readings, from the Auger one: “Should these narratives have been wholly dystopian then their ability to invoke contemplation and discussion would have been limited. … Design ﬁctions should sit on the fence; their strength coming from the viewer being encouraged to draw their own conclusions”
Obviously, if your design fiction can be reduced to “____ is bad” or “____ is good”, it’s not very effective. But does that mean you can’t fall on one side of the fence? I’m thinking about “Sight”, which pretty much felt like “contact lens computers will be creepy and terrible because they will lead to all these awful scenarios.”
I kept thinking of my favorite Bill Buxton quote: “everything is best for something and worst for something else”. On this “best-worst” spectrum, I think *good* critical design should either point us to unnoticed ends (e.g., how furniture can be made from dust), or provoke reactions that span at a large scale (e.g., phone tooth http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1934259_1934277_1934497,00.html)
This point made by Augur also struck me. I think what’s effective about letting the viewer make their own conclusions is that if the individual goes through the process of reflecting on the design fiction scenario and its implications, the conclusions that they come to will resonate more with them because they’ve arrived at them more on their own. [I’m sure there’s a term out there in psychology that sums that up a lot better.] I think, in a way, this is rooted in the user-centered methodologies for design: critical design is still user-centered and empathetic towards its audience, but it’s a user-centered discomfort.
Sometimes I feel like concepts in design – despite good intentions – can be too rhetorical, and spoon feed the designer’s own values and judgement calls to the audience without giving them the opportunity to determine what aligns with their own values. So critical/speculative/fictional design seems like an interesting space to explore these facets of and potentials for technology and everyday life more democratically.
Some thoughts triggered by reading Sterling’s essay. It seems that medium shapes the creation of fictions. I can start creating science fiction right now from the text editor of my laptop; yet designing something, at least for the non-designers, often seem much more complicated than writing text. The good news is we have been democratizing design – laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC Milling are just a few exemplar ‘building media’ that have been recently made much more available to non-designers and takes us closer to accomplishing some of our design fictions. Still there’s a fair amount of gap between we can brainstorm on the whiteboard and the first prototype that even remotely implements the idea. So is democratizing design the key to promote design fiction?
I can see how the emergence of increasingly accessible form giving tools might popularize design fiction. However, I think the flaw in this hypothesis is the matter of visual literacy. I would assume the number of people who are comfortable with writing as a means of imaginary expression dwarf the number of people who can create convincing drawings and models.
My interest is piqued by the nature of dishonesty in design fiction practice, particularly in the Audio Tooth Implant.
As a 11 year old in 2002, the only feature of TIME magazine that i ever read was the annual best inventions list. I would take my parents issue and read the list over several times, my mind racing with blind excitement as i imagined a future of self-heating coffee and segways that would replace walking all over the world.
I read about the tooth implant. I loved the tooth implant. I wanted a tooth implant.
It never occurred to me that it was a lie. I am heartbroken. 💔
Is it ethical to lie in the pursuit of design fiction?
Art is generally assumed to be a lie unless proven otherwise.
Utilizing the vocabulary of design and intentionally getting fake products into TIME and WIRED is another matter.
I’m on the fence, personally.
Notable (funny) 2002 TED talk: Dean Kamen on the how the Segway will solve the world’s problems:
Spoiler Alert: he was wrong. A great example of decade-old technosolutionism.
I personally feel it’s a wonderful strategy for testing the viability of an idea. If it creates traction with the public, you could gain funding that otherwise may not have been granted.
Had you ever dreamed of a tooth implant prior to reading the article? Probably not – and even if you had would you have ever pursued the idea to make it a reality? Again, probably not. But now the tooth implant has been ‘implanted’ in the minds of many, and has more likelihood of becoming a reality. So while you might not have the potential for instant gratification since the product doesn’t currently exist, you have the potential for future gratification that you may not have had otherwise. I see the positive consequences of such a lie outweighing any negative ones.
Being that Auger brings up both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles, I found myself wondering about the effectiveness of design/fiction techniques that rely on the hoax vs. the diegetic prototype. is one more effective than the other, and in what situations or contexts?
When Sterling speaks about maybe a need for another box, a new, more general, creative project to map the limits of the imaginable within the contemporary technosocial milieu, what is the form of this? Is it an alternative form of the internet? He seems maybe dissatisfied with the current state and organization of things which he does not seem to think was rationally designed. He questions the technoculture in which we are currently in and asks “Can’t we do better?.” At the end of the article he writes who will make the bricks? What bricks and what is he proposing we build and how does he think design fiction can facilitate this building?
Really good question. I could really relate to his depiction of the messy organization of knowledge and blurring and fusion of all sorts of disciplines and culture: “In this world of search engines and cross-links, of keywords and networks, the solid smokestacks of yesterday’s disciplines have blown out… What we are really experiencing now is a massive cybernetic hemorrhage in ways of knowing the world.” Mapping the “limits to the imaginable” sounds pretty scary, I have to say – so finite.
I personally enjoyed reading Auger’s article, as scratched a few itches I had from previous readings and discussions. He talked about how designers can DO something with their ideas. Each of his examples highlighted a way to make complex and futuristic design concepts gain traction with the rest of society. Whether the concepts are made real in the minds of potential users through media (tooth implants), personal connection (afterlife), or the intrigue of ubiquity (happy life), Auger points out many compelling avenues with which designers can make an impact.
His article does leave me with a few questions, though. Almost every scenario outlined comes with a detail of human nature or navigable social constructs. I find it hard to believe that purely from his own experiences and logical thinking he was able to arrive at his conclusions. It seems designers and scientists would benefit greatly from collaborating with social and cognitive psychologists, anthropologists, historians, etc. Yet he doesn’t point out these fields of study, and rather emphasizes the role of the designer. While these components play a huge part in design thinking, I struggle to accept that designers and scientists alone can imagine, design, prototype, and market a radical idea to the mass public and be so successful in each step of the process. Shouldn’t Auger have pointed out the ‘shoulders of giants’ he had to stand on to arrive at such potent conclusions about the human condition?
In the reading by Auger, It is mentioned that the future visions presented at corporate events and technology fairs are not good examples of design fiction because they cannot be divested from hidden political agendas and displays of engineering prowess. I disagree with this statement because I wonder where the funding for these design fictions will originate from, why would such pieces be created if not to motivate an agenda.
In the Auger piece, it is mentioned that future visions presented at corporat fairs and technology fairs are not really design fiction because they are riddled with political motivations and shows of prowess. I disagree with this statement as I wonder where the funding for all design fictions originate from. Why would you create a design fiction if not to motivate a particular position or agenda?
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