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Design Fiction
     Something and the Something in the
     age of the Something.
     [ideas in process. tread lightly.]
Julian Bleecker
Design Engaged 2008
Montreal
October 3, 2008
Design Fiction
  Why Engage Design?
Design Fiction
  Thinking of design as something that can shape the
future, bring about change, craft new sorts of habitable
                        worlds.
Design Fiction
But, like..Design? You’re an Engineer? And the Art stuff?
                 And that Teaching thing?
Presentation Schema
   1. Representations of the Future
2. Relating the Future and the Present
        3. Props and Prototypes
1. Representations of the
                Future
      How do we imagine what can come to be?
What are the ways the future will be and how does that
 shape what we consider reasonable, possible futures?
3 Representations of the Future.
             ..and
 2.5 Provocative Quotes to go
       along with them.
Quote One.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To
  change something, build a new model that makes the
     existing model obsolete.” - R. Buckminster Fuller
Quote One (and it’s diagram).

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To
  change something, build a new model that makes the
     existing model obsolete.” - R. Buckminster Fuller




     Linear
Representation
 of the Future
Quote Two.

“As I’ve said many times, the future is here. It’s just not
           evenly distributed.” - William Gibson
“As I’ve said many times, (andfuture is here. It’s just not
              Quote Two the its diagram)
               evenly distributed.” - WG
“As I’ve said many times, the future is here. It’s just not
               evenly distributed.” - WG




                                             Sandwich
                                               Spread
                                          Representation
                                           of the Future
Quote Two and a half..kinda

    “...” - Bruno Latour
Quote Two and a half..a bit more.

                  “...” - Bruno Latour

  “Νέα ως, Knots εκτελέσει Entanglements . Στο
    Imbroglios εκδόσεις. Assemblages βγήκε
περισσότερο ας σαν, μην Collectives .” - Bruno Latour
Quote Two and a half (and a diagram).

         “...” - Bruno Latour



                                    The 3D
                                  Linkages of
                                 Human/Non-
                                    Human
                                  Collectives
                                Representation
                                 of the Future
Two and a half.
“In 50 years, social scientists will be able to visualise the connections between human organisations and
technological objects. Today we know how to visualise technological systems using scientific images and
   technical drawings, but we have no idea of how to hook those designs up with the arrays of emails,
     spreadsheets, blogs and pieces of paper that organise the people who operate those systems.”
                                                 - Bruno Latour




                                                                                  The 3D
                                                                                Linkages of
                                                                               Human/Non-
                                                                                  Human
                                                                                Collectives
                                                                              Representation
                                                                               of the Future

Complex knots and linkages between many disparate social practices create thick
representations of human activities, including our projections and imaginations about the
future.
Recap..




     Linear
Representation
 of the Future
Recap..



A planar representation of the
future, it exists in different places
simultaneously and you can smear it
about to get it evenly distributed,
but it is lumpy in bits and doesn’t
get to everyone evenly.
A spherical representation of the future, collections/collectives of
conversations & objects, human/non-human agents. There are many
futures, many possible inhabited worlds. A representation that consists
of complex, messy knots/collectives/imbroglios. Some collectives are
better at maintaining themselves. They’ve got strong objects with lots
of attention and adhesion. They have lots of idea-mass that draws other
conversations and objects towards them.
2. Ubicomp + SciFi
An example of a quot;collectivequot; construction of a future world in this third representation; what are the
elements that constitute the collective knot/embroglio? For ubicomp it's telling that it's more than a
linear or planar track because of how much quot;culturequot; is in there, how complicated it becomes because
you start involving people and their pragmatic, everyday lives very richly and thickly; anthropology in on
the ubicomp game early on with Lucy Suchman's involvement at PARC; it's a more complicated, knotty,
thorny, intractable endeavor. (Maybe why it's endlessly deferred.)
2. Ubicomp + SciFi
     Why Ubicomp?
2. Ubicomp + SciFi
 Considering a response to Bell & Dourish, “Resistance is Futile:
Reading Science Fiction Alongside of Ubiquitous Computing” (pre-
                               pub)
quot;..we are interested in the ways in which science fiction – the literary figuring 
of future technologies rather than the practical figuring of much contemporary research – 
engages with a series of questions about the social and cultural contexts of technology use 
           that help us reflect upon assumptions within technological research.quot; 
 Bell & Dourish, “Resistance is Futile: Reading Science Fiction Alongside of Ubiquitous Computing”
The look at:

 Five Shows: Dr. Who, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Blake's 7, Hitch-
                   Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

 Three Themes: Bureacracy, Technological Breakdown, Frontier and
                             Empire

    Put together to fashion a perspective that tells a story about
ubiquitous computing-y things as they’re projected into various sci-fi
                              narratives
But..I Would Say..
Ubicomp Is SciFi!
Huh?
Ubicomp ties intricately and plainly to a larger cultural
  imaginary; more so than many other “engineering”
practices. It’s fodder for film and, as importantly (maybe
 more so?) it provides a reference point for engineers
              and scientists in the laboratory!
For example: How is the “Minority Report Interface”
Claimed? Who Stakes Out This Idiom? How is this phrase a
              Messy Latorian Assemblage?

                   Ask The Google..
Blurry lines between the sci-fi props
      and research prototypes
“The Film”
Right alongside of “Science”


“Turtle-necked Jeff Hahn”
             (friend, so it’s all good)




  Whole bunch of links to people who claim
   “minority report interface” research
More blurry sci-fi science
More blurry sci-fi science




                          Text


 Realistic dinosaurs as a special-effect, produced to be
visually compelling as a “prop” to help tell a story more
         compelling than a dowdy documentary.
More blurry sci-fi science
More blurry sci-fi science

                                                                             Wow..




cf. David A. Kirby “Science Consultants, Fictional Films, and
Scientific Practice” Social Studies of Science 33/2 (April 2003) pp. 231-268
cf. Julian Bleecker, “The Reality Effect of Technoscience” 2004, unpublished dissertation
http://tinyurl.com/3roy6s
Conversation Collectives
      Deployment, refraction and idea-mass, a 3D Latourian
                 representation of the future.
  Conversations shaped by human and non-human objects and
their deployment, circulation and potential to draw more agents.

Con: Biggest mouth, and wallet, makes bigger conversations
Pro: Their can be many multiple collectives, with varying degrees
of “idea-mass”
Con: It can be frustrating to have some good stuff that can make
more habitable worlds, and not have the most idea-massive
collective.
Pro: But..you can still have your future, even if it is not everyone
elses.
3. Props & Prototypes
3. Props & Prototypes
Let’s look quickly at two kinds of prototypes

   1. Prototypes in their canonical form.
           2. Diegetic Prototypes
Canonical Prototypes. Functionality.
Canonical Prototypes. Fit and Mechanics.
Canonical Prototypes
Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”)
Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement. 
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication,” 1999 
Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”)


quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes”
that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and
viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over
true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that
function properly and which people actually use.quot;
David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic
Creation of the Future” (pre-pub)
Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”)


quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes”
that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and
viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over
true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that
function properly and which people actually use.quot;
David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic
Creation of the Future”
Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”)


        quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes”
        that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and
        viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over
        true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that
        function properly and which people actually use.quot;
        David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic
        Creation of the Future”

  Wow. Stories matter when designing the future. Maybe
even more than the “real thing” in terms of their ability to
 flash-bang the imagination of real people. Ideas are more
 powerful than a crappy product that aspires to the idea.
Props & Prototypes
Think of design as prop-making for the near future. Design makes objects
(non-humans) around which stories/conversations ensure, and imaginary
                        worlds come into being.
Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass
 Offer ways of telling stories and crafting adhesion to these collectives of
ideas and conversations through an object. Props and prototypes provide
             the seeds for evolving conversation-collectives.
They behave as constitutive elements for the collectives/knots/embroglios
 — the collectives need material props of some sort, human/non-human
        elements to create idea-mass, to collect more attention.
Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass

Design can also be a kind of fiction making; design-fiction.
Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass

Design is speculative prototypes; things that are real sci-fi, really curious and orthogonal to the
conventions of technology-market-economies.
Measure of success: “Stupidest fucking idea..EVER!”
Probes into imaginary, peculiar worlds.
So..what?
   Objects tell stories for people, not scenarios for users.
         There are many futures, no inevitabilities.
                  Make lots of stuff, quickly.
Assume weird (or no) market models; weird imaginary worlds.
                Assume you are from a future.
Thanks.


julian at nearfuturelaboratory dot c
julian dot bleecker at nokia dot c

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Design Fiction: Something and the Something in the Age of the Something

  • 1. Design Fiction Something and the Something in the age of the Something. [ideas in process. tread lightly.] Julian Bleecker Design Engaged 2008 Montreal October 3, 2008
  • 2. Design Fiction Why Engage Design?
  • 3. Design Fiction Thinking of design as something that can shape the future, bring about change, craft new sorts of habitable worlds.
  • 4. Design Fiction But, like..Design? You’re an Engineer? And the Art stuff? And that Teaching thing?
  • 5.
  • 6. Presentation Schema 1. Representations of the Future 2. Relating the Future and the Present 3. Props and Prototypes
  • 7. 1. Representations of the Future How do we imagine what can come to be? What are the ways the future will be and how does that shape what we consider reasonable, possible futures?
  • 8. 3 Representations of the Future. ..and 2.5 Provocative Quotes to go along with them.
  • 9. Quote One. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - R. Buckminster Fuller
  • 10. Quote One (and it’s diagram). “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - R. Buckminster Fuller Linear Representation of the Future
  • 11. Quote Two. “As I’ve said many times, the future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” - William Gibson
  • 12. “As I’ve said many times, (andfuture is here. It’s just not Quote Two the its diagram) evenly distributed.” - WG “As I’ve said many times, the future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” - WG Sandwich Spread Representation of the Future
  • 13. Quote Two and a half..kinda “...” - Bruno Latour
  • 14. Quote Two and a half..a bit more. “...” - Bruno Latour “Νέα ως, Knots εκτελέσει Entanglements . Στο Imbroglios εκδόσεις. Assemblages βγήκε περισσότερο ας σαν, μην Collectives .” - Bruno Latour
  • 15. Quote Two and a half (and a diagram). “...” - Bruno Latour The 3D Linkages of Human/Non- Human Collectives Representation of the Future
  • 16. Two and a half. “In 50 years, social scientists will be able to visualise the connections between human organisations and technological objects. Today we know how to visualise technological systems using scientific images and technical drawings, but we have no idea of how to hook those designs up with the arrays of emails, spreadsheets, blogs and pieces of paper that organise the people who operate those systems.” - Bruno Latour The 3D Linkages of Human/Non- Human Collectives Representation of the Future Complex knots and linkages between many disparate social practices create thick representations of human activities, including our projections and imaginations about the future.
  • 17. Recap.. Linear Representation of the Future
  • 18. Recap.. A planar representation of the future, it exists in different places simultaneously and you can smear it about to get it evenly distributed, but it is lumpy in bits and doesn’t get to everyone evenly.
  • 19. A spherical representation of the future, collections/collectives of conversations & objects, human/non-human agents. There are many futures, many possible inhabited worlds. A representation that consists of complex, messy knots/collectives/imbroglios. Some collectives are better at maintaining themselves. They’ve got strong objects with lots of attention and adhesion. They have lots of idea-mass that draws other conversations and objects towards them.
  • 20. 2. Ubicomp + SciFi An example of a quot;collectivequot; construction of a future world in this third representation; what are the elements that constitute the collective knot/embroglio? For ubicomp it's telling that it's more than a linear or planar track because of how much quot;culturequot; is in there, how complicated it becomes because you start involving people and their pragmatic, everyday lives very richly and thickly; anthropology in on the ubicomp game early on with Lucy Suchman's involvement at PARC; it's a more complicated, knotty, thorny, intractable endeavor. (Maybe why it's endlessly deferred.)
  • 21. 2. Ubicomp + SciFi Why Ubicomp?
  • 22. 2. Ubicomp + SciFi Considering a response to Bell & Dourish, “Resistance is Futile: Reading Science Fiction Alongside of Ubiquitous Computing” (pre- pub)
  • 23. quot;..we are interested in the ways in which science fiction – the literary figuring  of future technologies rather than the practical figuring of much contemporary research –  engages with a series of questions about the social and cultural contexts of technology use  that help us reflect upon assumptions within technological research.quot;  Bell & Dourish, “Resistance is Futile: Reading Science Fiction Alongside of Ubiquitous Computing”
  • 24. The look at: Five Shows: Dr. Who, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Blake's 7, Hitch- Hikers Guide to the Galaxy Three Themes: Bureacracy, Technological Breakdown, Frontier and Empire Put together to fashion a perspective that tells a story about ubiquitous computing-y things as they’re projected into various sci-fi narratives
  • 26. Huh? Ubicomp ties intricately and plainly to a larger cultural imaginary; more so than many other “engineering” practices. It’s fodder for film and, as importantly (maybe more so?) it provides a reference point for engineers and scientists in the laboratory!
  • 27. For example: How is the “Minority Report Interface” Claimed? Who Stakes Out This Idiom? How is this phrase a Messy Latorian Assemblage? Ask The Google..
  • 28. Blurry lines between the sci-fi props and research prototypes
  • 30. Right alongside of “Science” “Turtle-necked Jeff Hahn” (friend, so it’s all good) Whole bunch of links to people who claim “minority report interface” research
  • 32. More blurry sci-fi science Text Realistic dinosaurs as a special-effect, produced to be visually compelling as a “prop” to help tell a story more compelling than a dowdy documentary.
  • 34. More blurry sci-fi science Wow.. cf. David A. Kirby “Science Consultants, Fictional Films, and Scientific Practice” Social Studies of Science 33/2 (April 2003) pp. 231-268 cf. Julian Bleecker, “The Reality Effect of Technoscience” 2004, unpublished dissertation http://tinyurl.com/3roy6s
  • 35. Conversation Collectives Deployment, refraction and idea-mass, a 3D Latourian representation of the future. Conversations shaped by human and non-human objects and their deployment, circulation and potential to draw more agents. Con: Biggest mouth, and wallet, makes bigger conversations Pro: Their can be many multiple collectives, with varying degrees of “idea-mass” Con: It can be frustrating to have some good stuff that can make more habitable worlds, and not have the most idea-massive collective. Pro: But..you can still have your future, even if it is not everyone elses.
  • 36. 3. Props & Prototypes
  • 37. 3. Props & Prototypes Let’s look quickly at two kinds of prototypes 1. Prototypes in their canonical form. 2. Diegetic Prototypes
  • 39. Canonical Prototypes. Fit and Mechanics.
  • 41. Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”) Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement.  - Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication,” 1999 
  • 42. Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”) quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes” that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that function properly and which people actually use.quot; David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic Creation of the Future” (pre-pub)
  • 43. Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”) quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes” that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that function properly and which people actually use.quot; David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic Creation of the Future”
  • 44. Diegetic Prototypes (“Props”) quot;..cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually “diegetic prototypes” that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and viability. I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as “real” objects that function properly and which people actually use.quot; David A. Kirby, “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes, and the Cinematic Creation of the Future” Wow. Stories matter when designing the future. Maybe even more than the “real thing” in terms of their ability to flash-bang the imagination of real people. Ideas are more powerful than a crappy product that aspires to the idea.
  • 45. Props & Prototypes Think of design as prop-making for the near future. Design makes objects (non-humans) around which stories/conversations ensure, and imaginary worlds come into being.
  • 46. Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass Offer ways of telling stories and crafting adhesion to these collectives of ideas and conversations through an object. Props and prototypes provide the seeds for evolving conversation-collectives. They behave as constitutive elements for the collectives/knots/embroglios — the collectives need material props of some sort, human/non-human elements to create idea-mass, to collect more attention.
  • 47. Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass Design can also be a kind of fiction making; design-fiction.
  • 48. Prototypes/Props are Idea-Mass Design is speculative prototypes; things that are real sci-fi, really curious and orthogonal to the conventions of technology-market-economies. Measure of success: “Stupidest fucking idea..EVER!” Probes into imaginary, peculiar worlds.
  • 49. So..what? Objects tell stories for people, not scenarios for users. There are many futures, no inevitabilities. Make lots of stuff, quickly. Assume weird (or no) market models; weird imaginary worlds. Assume you are from a future.
  • 50. Thanks. julian at nearfuturelaboratory dot c julian dot bleecker at nokia dot c