'My radio prefers bacon'

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The value of speculative culture to strategic foresight and contemporary design.

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  • Presentation by Justin Pickard ( @justinpickard ) on the theme 'Crazy Futures' Delivered at the APF's V-Gathering, on October 27, 2011
  • Accelerated Biography: 1) BA (Hons.) International Relations & Anthropology @ University of Sussex Final-year work on data havens, the political geography of Mumbai, religion in post-crash Thailand, and Guantanamo Bay 2) Community Coordinator on IFTF's participatory foresight project Superstruct Focusing on 'Outlaw Planet' super-threat: http://youtu.be/TbpKA_2tZeg Wrote up my experiences here: http://b.qr.ae/tKbCHo 3) MA in Digital Media: Technology & Cultural Form @ Goldsmiths Theory-heavy programme, with extended work on contemporary US literature, the technological imaginary, cartography, and visual culture 4) Associate at Superflux, focusing on foresight and written communication Superflux = a collaborative, Anglo-Indian design company, based in London, but with roots and contacts in the Gujurati city of Ahmedabad Founded by interaction designers, focusing on the intersection of emerging technologies and everyday life
  • Bruce Sterling – SF author, design critic, iconoclast, sarcastic Texan
  • Wired Italia as an icon of mainstream – if offbeat – foresight and futurism Ralph Steadman cartoon as an icon of gonzo journalism Eames Lounge Chair as an icon of twentieth-century modern design
  • On 'design futurescaping', see our essay in: Blowup: The Era of Objects (pdf) On 'experiential futures', see Stuart Candy's PhD thesis, ' The Futures of Everyday Life '
  • Kevin Kelly on Scenius, here .
  • The London Hackspace: http://bit.ly/s1taWO
  • Robin Sloan's full article: ' Kanye West, Media Cyborg '
  • The titular, bacon-preferring radio Designs by Anab Jain (Superflux) and Alex Taylor (Microsoft Research Cambirdge) More on this project: ' Energy Autonomous Devices ' Rhodoferrax ferrireduciens as the substrate for a microbial fuel cell?
  • More on Thomas Thwaites' project can be found on his wesbite I particularly enjoyed the accompanying video
  • More on Cesar Harada's work can be found on the Protei website See his TEDx talk for a more detailed look at the project specifics
  • Further materials from Anab and Jon's 'Pirates of the Danube' workshop can be found here: http://superflux.in/work/pirates-danube
  • Play4Power = child labour? Questions about some kind of community social contract Additional workshop outputs can be found here: http://piratesofthedanube.kibu.hu
  • More of Julijonas' work can be seen on his website I recommend checking out this interview , from Dublin's Science Gallery
  • More on this Superflux project here: http://superflux.in/work/song-machine The finished film , starring Y.T.
  • The Fubar Criterion!
  • Image from a workshop on Heathcare & Enhancement that Anab ran in Qatar. More details here: http://superflux.in/work/talk-healthcare-qatar Cultural estrangement?
  • EEG as a smartphone peripheral, from research being undertaken at the Technical University of Denmark Making the brain/emotions 'legible' Emotiv headset + Nokia N900 The technological sublime?
  • The Dremelfuge, a piece of open-source hardware that transforms a handheld electric drill into a lab-spec centrifuge Used by the DIYbio community to separate DNA from samples An elegant example of the opportunities opened by 3D fabrication, that nevertheless leaves me reeling from some kind of scalar futures-vertigo
  • Image from 'The Power of Making', an exhibition at London's V&A Museum The first time I encounter a 3D printer, it's in a museum Atemporality? Contextual estrangement?
  • Cascio on legacy futures: http://www.openthefuture.com/2008/12/legacy_futures.html
  • Neal Stephenson's full article, on the failings of innovation: http://bit.ly/nQqicL
  • A selection of contemporary science fiction, all published post-2000, and stuffed with fresh, provocative and relevant hieroglyphs for the future-present.
  • Taken from here: http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/twenty-years-fore-aft/
  • 'My radio prefers bacon'

    1. 1. “ My radio prefers bacon” Adventures in Speculative Culture Justin Pickard, Superflux @justinpickard
    2. 3. What is it? I want to talk to you about: speculative culture
    3. 6. FORESIGHT GONZO DESIGN
    4. 7. 'GONZO'?
    5. 8. > crazy, madcap, unwieldy, or anarchic > a style of journalism in which the journalist becomes part of the action > writing with extreme subjectivity > freewheeling or unconventional, esp. to the point of outrageousness > live & first person > taking matters into your own hands GONZO. 'GONZO'?
    6. 9. FORESIGHT GONZO DESIGN
    7. 10. DESIGN FORESIGHT GONZO science fiction 'critical design' interaction design design ethnography scenarios design fiction concept art 'new journalism' experiential futures user research prototyping horizon-scanning roadmaps futurescaping culture-jamming
    8. 13. (C) Russ Garrett
    9. 18. Policing Genes Thomas Thwaites <ul><li>Commissioned by the EPSRC, with the UCL Center for Security & Crime Science </li></ul><ul><li>'the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur…and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.' </li></ul><ul><li>'Genetic Surveillance Hives' co-opting natural bee behaviour to collect pollen samples within certain parameters. </li></ul>
    10. 19. Policing Genes Thomas Thwaites (C) Thomas Thwaits and Theo Cook
    11. 20. (cc) cesarharada Protei Cesar Harada
    12. 21. (cc) Cesar Harada
    13. 23. © Bea Csortan and Dani Pifko
    14. 24. The Euthanasia Coaster Julijonas Urbonas (C) Julijonas Urbanos
    15. 28. (cc) brookenovak
    16. 29. The Fubar Criterion? <ul><li>Fubar = 'F***d up beyond all recognition' </li></ul><ul><li>Also, 'the [fictional] metric unit of contemporary weirdness' </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive estrangement </li></ul><ul><li>Future Shock (Alvin Toffler) </li></ul><ul><li>The Sublime: </li></ul>'The Alps fill the mind with an agreeable kind of horror' (Joseph Addison, 1699) <ul><li>Boundlessness, limitlessness, extreme scale (Kant) </li></ul><ul><li>Novelty and revelation </li></ul><ul><li>The Hitchcock Zoom </li></ul><ul><li>Sensawunda </li></ul><ul><li>Juxtaposition </li></ul><ul><li>The Gothic (the return of the repressed) </li></ul><ul><li>This is the aesthetic sensibility (sensitivity) of speculative culture </li></ul>
    17. 32. (cc) Russ Garrett
    18. 33. (cc) jmaclynn
    19. 34. So what? <ul><li>Generic images of the future (Jim Dator) treat the future/s as uniform totality – the green growth future, the transhuman future, the austerity future, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Legacy futures (Jamais Cascio) are culturally toxic; 'bad memes'; skeumorphism writ large! </li></ul><ul><li>The lens of 'speculative culture', OTOH, treats the future as something more fluid </li></ul><ul><li>In the media-drenched 2010s, academics now prefer to talk about 'mediacy' and 'mediation', rather than media – media is ubiquitous; media is the substrate. </li></ul><ul><li>What does it mean to talk about futurity ; about futuring ? </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to more 'mainstream' scenario and horizon-scanning work, 'futuring' can take the form of experiential scenarios (Stuart Candy, Jake Dunagan) </li></ul>
    20. 36. So what? <ul><li>Generic images of the future (Jim Dator) treat the future/s as uniform totality – the green growth future, the transhuman future, the austerity future, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Legacy futures (Jamais Cascio) are culturally toxic; 'bad memes'; skeumorphism writ large! </li></ul><ul><li>The lens of 'speculative culture', OTOH, treats the future as something more fluid </li></ul><ul><li>In the media-drenched 2010s, academics now prefer to talk about 'mediacy' and 'mediation', rather than media – media is ubiquitous; media is the substrate. </li></ul><ul><li>What does it mean to talk about futurity ; about futuring ? </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to more 'mainstream' scenario and horizon-scanning work, 'futuring' can take the form of experiential scenarios (Stuart Candy, Jake Dunagan) </li></ul><ul><li>The 'fubar criterion' is a (sub)cultural sensitivity to weak signals </li></ul><ul><li>Alongside science fiction, the artifacts & images of speculative design give us a fresh, relevant vocabulary with which to talk about the future – combinatorial elements, hieroglyphs (Jim Karkanias) </li></ul>
    21. 37. 'Good [science fiction] supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place. A good SF universe has a coherence and internal logic that makes sense to scientists and engineers. Examples include Isaac Asimov’s robots, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ships, and William Gibson’s cyberspace ... such icons serve as hieroglyphs — simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.' – Neal Stephenson
    22. 39. 'Twenty years from now is 2031. That year is not Utopia or Oblivion, it’s not made of sci-fi hologrammed tinsel; it’s just another year among many, and most of its working parts are already scattered around.' – Bruce Sterling

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