http://www.sdn2010.ch/ Negotiating Futures - Design Fiction Designers see the world not simply as it is, but rather as it could be. In this perspective, the world is a laboratory to explore the contingency of the existing and the thinking in options. Imaginations of the contra factual are a key source for the creation of alternative political, technological, social, or economic constellations of artefacts, interfaces, signs, actors, and spaces. At the same time, strategies of materialization are pivotal to shift the boundary between the fictional and the real and to finally bring possible new realities into being. The conference addresses the questions of how fictions are designed and how the multiplicity of possible new futures is negotiated and realized. Thursday, October 28, 2010: Junior Research Conference. Program for Swiss MA Design Students. Friday, October 29, 2010: Negotiating Futures
I’m going to be in my bubble dress on a piano made of bubbles, singing about love and art and the future. I should like to make one person believe in that moment, and it would be worth every salt of a No. 1 record.
Design fiction: facts about science and design
Julian Bleecker who works at Nokia Design is imagining the near future, creating “design fictions” and prototypes of networked artifacts such as objects that blog about their interactions with the environment. This presentation is about the relationship between design, science fiction, and the material elements that help tell visual stories about the future mostly props and special effects.
I’m a science fiction writer, and as I became more familiar with design, it struck me that the futuristic objects and services within science fiction are quite badly designed. Why? That’s not a question often asked. The reason is pretty simple: Science fiction is a form of popular entertainment. The emotional payoff of the science fiction genre is the sense of wonder it conveys. Science fiction “design” therefore demands some whiz-bang, whereas industrial design requires safety, utility, serviceability, cost constraints, appearance, and shelf appeal. To these old-school ID virtues nowadays we might add sustainability and a decent interface. The classic totems of sci-fi: the rayguns, space cruisers, androids, robots, time machines, artificial intelligences, nanotechnological black-boxes. They have a deep commonality: They’re imaginary. Imaginary products can never maim the consumer, they get no user feedback, and lawsuits and regulatory boards are not a problem. That’s why their design is glamorously fantastic and, therefore, basically, crap. On occasion, sci-fi prognostications do become actual objects and services. Science fiction then promptly looks elsewhere. It shouldn’t, but it does. I like to think that my science fiction became somewhat less flaccid once I learned to write “design fiction” as I now commonly do. I believe that I’ve finessed that issue, at least in my own practice. However, when science fiction thinking opens itself to design thinking, larger problems appear. These have to do with speculative culture generally, the way that our society imagines itself through its forward-looking disciplines. Many problems I once considered strictly literary are better understood as interaction-design issues. Literature has platforms. By this I mean the physical structures on which literature is conceived, designed, written, manufactured and distributed, remembered and forgotten. Literary infrastructure has user-experience constraints.
Extending this idea that science fiction is implicated in the production of things like science fact, I wanted to think about how this happens, so that I could figure out the principles and pragmatics of doing design, making things that create different sorts of near future worlds. So, this is a bit of a think-piece, with examples and some insights that provide a few conclusions about why this is important as well as how it gets done. How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called “design fiction” that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds of environments, artifacts and practices.
I don’t mean this to be one of those silly “proprietary practices” things that design agencies are fond of patenting. This is much more aspirational than that sort of nonsense. It’s part an ongoing explanation of why The Near Future Laboratory does such peculiar things, and why we emphasize the near future. The essay is a way of describing why alternative futures that are about people and their practices are way more interesting here than profit and feature sets. It’s a way to invest some attention on what can be done rather immediately to mitigate a complete systems failure; and part an investment in creating playful, peculiar, sideways-looking things that have no truck with the up-and-to-the-right kind of futures. Things can be otherwise; different from the slipshod sorts of futures that economists, accountants and engineers assume always are faster, smaller, cheaper and with two more features bandied about on advertising glossies and spec sheet.
Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations about alternative futures. It’s about reading P.K. Dick as a systems administrator, or Bruce Sterling as a software design manual. It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries between pragmatics and imagination.
*Good design fiction has an audience like fiction does, but it’s hampered if it overindulges in storytelling elements. And if it plays to a general audience, it’s gonna waste too much time in exposition. *If you think of a thriving social enterprise that lies a lot about designed products, it’s advertising. It’s probably no accident that a lot of good design fiction comes across as Adbuster-like “subvertising.