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Speculative design introduction

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A quick introduction to the notion of speculative design for a pop-up class called "The Decay of Digital Things" at Stanford's d.school.

A quick introduction to the notion of speculative design for a pop-up class called "The Decay of Digital Things" at Stanford's d.school.


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  • Speculative design is about the present, in the guise of discussing the future.It is not supposed to be predictive or prescriptive What are those disciplines? ASK FOR EXAMPLESFilm…for example.
  • The future is what we are speculating aboutThe future is what we are interested inWhat kinds of futures do we imagine?Preferable intersects plausible and probable…and even goes outside of what is probable.
  • Creating plausible – not necessarily preferable – futures by using the techniques of science fiction. What comes first, the fictional story or the object it supports? Which way would you prefer to work – from the object to the future within which it makes sense, or from the scenario to the object that demonstrates it?
  • Specific/mundane…ie, Corner Convenience
  • ASK: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE?Clean / open / unspecific / “prop-like”?
  • ASK: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE?Grimy / detailed / specific / “real”?
  • What kinds of outcomes might characterize a successful speculative design project?A failed one?
  • How do we do that?
  • LOOK CLOSELY AT THE PHOTOSo what’s the point, here? How does this physical exhibit in a corner store operate? Who is participating? How do they participate? When does the participation start/end? Does seeing this on the Internet count as participation?
  • What kinds of problems, for what kinds of people, are we taking on? Who is imagined inhabiting these speculative fictions? What kinds of crises do they assume? Are those sudden “crises” elsewhere felt as just everyday life?
  • ASK: HOW DO WE CHOOSE WHICH FUTURES TO EXPLORE? Here’s an example of a very different way of working with futures – Neil Beloufa’s “ethnological sci-fi documentary”“The video portrays a series of Malian men simply speaking of the future in the present tense, but the tension between the fictive nature of their visions (which are often more animist than Star Wars), the reality of the men themselves, the play with post-colonial expectations of exoticism, and the spooky way in which the film is flawlessly shot creates a provocative narrative tableau that presents us with all our expectations of Africa and then subverts them with a subtlety not usually attributed to sci-fi. The men are hopeful, their visions strange and beautiful, the meaning is slippery, and Beloufa’s video is all of the above. Kempinski will be showing as a part of Beloufa’s upcoming Los Angeles solo debut at Chung King Project/François Ghebaly.” --From http://www.artslant.com/ny/artists/rackroom/19590
  • Reminder: this is just my perspective! And just an intro. There are other people who might characterize speculative design differently. The goal here is to introduce the aspects of speculative design as a method/agenda that might be most useful for the work we are hoping to do in this class.
  • Transcript

    • 1. SPECULATIVE DESIGN The Decay of Digital Things decay.io/dschoolElizabeth Goodman, Andrew Lovett-Baron, Maryanna Rogers
    • 2. SPECULATIVE CULTURE “The way that our society imagines itself through its forward-looking disciplines” — Bruce Sterling Blade Runner
    • 3. “When people think of design, most believe it is about problem solving. […] There are other possibilities for design: one is to use design as a means of speculating how things could be — speculative design.” Speculative design image goes here Dunne + Raby Energy Futures WHAT IS SPECULATIVE DESIGN? Dunne + Raby Speculative Everything, p2
    • 4. A TAXONOMY OF FUTURES Redrawn from Speculative Everything redrawing Stuart Candy
    • 5. DESIGN FICTION “During the Indian Civil War, the Dharavi slums of Mumbai were flooded with refugees looking to escape the conflict. The Mumbai authorities, distracted by defence of the city and facing an already over-populated and poverty stricken slum could do little to maintain a semblance of civilised life in the area. Sometime later a cache of biological samples appeared through the criminal networks of Mumbai, in the vain hope that it might provide new marketable narcotic opportunities. The collective drive and expertise of the refugees managed to turn theses genetically-engineered fungal samples into a new type of infrastructure providing heat, light and building material for the refugees. Dharavi rapidly evolved its own micro-economy based around the mushrooms.” Tobias Revell New Mumbai
    • 6. Open questions THE AESTHETICS OF SPECULATION
    • 7. Superflux Song of the Machine
    • 8. Near Future Laboratory Corner Convenience
    • 9. Open questions EVALUATING OUTCOMES
    • 10. SPECULATIVE DESIGN SHOULD… “open up all sorts of possibilities that can be discussed, debated, and used to collectively define a preferable future for a given group of people: from companies, to cities, to societies.” Speculative Everything, p6
    • 11. The Extrapolation Factory 99¢ Futures
    • 12. Open questions WHOSE FUTURES?
    • 13. Neil Beloufa Kempinski
    • 14. TOSUM UP Speculative design is… Intended to be provocative rather than predictive or prescriptive Illustrative of relationships of production, consumption, and circulation Instantiated in objects as well as words Amy Congdon Biological Atelier: “Extinct”