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Fabular Frames
and the Four Ratio
Problem
Een leeg busstation in Schuddebeurs, Zeeland. Beeld Daniel Rosenthal / de Volkskrant
Net Zero Sum Game
Digital, interactive art showing the struggle of a society in providing for its present population while also
saving planetary resources for future generations. Spread across several frames, the art is actually the
rendering of real and speculative data. The stereographic projections change shape in response to prompts
and provocations.
Visitors interact with the model through speculative statements about how to increase savings
across communities, regions, ecosystems and environments. Their fabulations combined with random
noise, i.e. factors beyond control, have a dramatic effect on the societal transition. Things get better. Things
get worse. The aim is to give visitors a new grasp and feel of the ongoing struggles in democracies around
the world.
Stunning art in the small multiples format brings out the spatiotemporal nature of societal
transitions, against backdrop issues such as energy, housing, waste, farmland and forest. In each frame we
see hopeful and frightful interplays between spending and saving.
Problems emerge when one of the two parts of the existential anaglyph rapidly shrinks like
Arctic ice, as factors cross thresholds. A broader, beyond-GDP concept of verdienvermogen is at play. Not
enough spending could mean economic stress, social unrest and political conflict. Not enough saving and
there will be climate breakdown and bankruptcy. So where does speculative design start and the gambling
and betting end?
Behind each fabular frame is a four-ratio problem. Each ratio reflects the level of sacrifice and
self-restraint a society is willing to accept, against promises of prosperity and freedom. Some values seem
to stabilise a frame while others cause collapse. Get the ratios right and we can have it all. Get them wrong
and things get more desperate.
© 2023 Structural
ENOUGH OF THIS AND THAT
There is ‘not enough’ of something or there is ‘too much’ of it. In between, there are thresholds of
‘just enough’ and ‘more than enough’. The four thresholds help us have meaningful debate over
choice and compromises between this and that.
THIS: Not enough travel
Just enough travel
More than enough travel
Too much travel
THAT: Not enough transport
Just enough transport
More than enough transport
Too much transport
THIS: Not enough forest
Just enough forest
More than enough forest
Too much forest
Too much housing
More than enough housing
Just enough housing
THAT: Not enough housing
But we entertain ourselves or annoy each other with simplistic understandings of complex issues
or fantastical arguments of how things should change, how much they should change or why
some things should not change at all.
Fourcast
A simple graph casting four concepts of interest that together indicate
the state of a system. Concepts 1 and 2 represent choices, whereas 3
and 4 represent compromises.
CONCEPT 2
CONCEPT 1
CONCEPT 4
CONCEPT 3
PRIVACY
SECURITY
VERIFICATION
SURVEILLANCE
Do we have enough security?
For example, we can visualise the inherent conflict and
interdependence between privacy and security, intermediated by the
concepts of surveillance and verification.
FOREST
BUILDINGS
PARKS
FARM
Do we have enough housing?
Or we can debate about the pressing need to rewild large expanses of
land to capture carbon, across a densely populated democracy
country that is also experiencing housing crisis.
ECOLOGICAL
RESERVE
ECONOMIC
GROWTH
ESCROW B
Intergenerational equity
At a much higher level of abstraction, we can explore the idea of two
types of escrow accounts for ecological wealth, through which we
could assure intergenerational equity.
ESCROW A
Agriculture Housing Transport Energy
It is more likely (and prudent) that we look across several frames
representing interlinked problems, to speculatively design policies and
programmes that have public support.
Multiple frames
We could focus on a single problem and look across areas or regions.
Examining local conditions and the peculiarities of regional solutions
can help us better understand the problem.
Amsterdam Eindhoven Rotterdam Utrecht
Small multiples
2000 2010 2020 2030
And of course, we can look across periods to see how a problem has
evolved over time – gotten better or worse – and analyse the factors
critical to change and improvement.
“Arctic ice”
Of course, you’d be looking
across a large set of frames
you’re the mayor of a city, a
member of parliament, the CEO
of a multinational …
… anyone concerned
with economic growth and
growing problem of climate
change.
Complicating factor
Ratio 4
Co-factor
Ratio 3
Key factor
Ratio 1
Control factor
Ratio 2
NOT X AND NOT Y
X AND Y
NOT X AND Y
NOT Y AND X
x+
x-
y-
y+
Four Factor
Model
y+
Factor 3
x+
Factor 2 y-
Factor 4
x-
Factor 1
Four Ratio
Problem
policy action
policy resistance
1100
Trees as
infrastructure?
YES NO
3532
Keep fewer things in
the freezer for shorter
periods?
YES NO
1200
Increase the speed
limit from 70 km/h to
80 km/h.
NO
YES
1355
Build more houses in
Eindhoven.
YES NO
2700
Capacity limits on
flights from Schiphol
airport.
NO
YES
2061
Restaurants cannot
refuse to serve tap
water.
NO
YES
x+
3124
1200
3532
Factor 3 4010
1112
1100
1056
3512
4555
1355
2061
2200
1055
Contextualiser
UHD display/projection
Risicoradar
1100
Trees as
infrastructure?
YES NO
Vox populi
Seat of power
signal processor policy unit
TRANSITION IN PROGRESS
Fabular Frames and the Four Ratio Problem
Fabular Frames and the Four Ratio Problem
Fabular Frames and the Four Ratio Problem
The transition won’t be televised.
But it will be plotted and printed.
Structural BV
Orteliusstraat 230H
1056 PH Amsterdam
www.strctrl.org

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Fabular Frames and the Four Ratio Problem

  • 1. Fabular Frames and the Four Ratio Problem Een leeg busstation in Schuddebeurs, Zeeland. Beeld Daniel Rosenthal / de Volkskrant
  • 2. Net Zero Sum Game Digital, interactive art showing the struggle of a society in providing for its present population while also saving planetary resources for future generations. Spread across several frames, the art is actually the rendering of real and speculative data. The stereographic projections change shape in response to prompts and provocations. Visitors interact with the model through speculative statements about how to increase savings across communities, regions, ecosystems and environments. Their fabulations combined with random noise, i.e. factors beyond control, have a dramatic effect on the societal transition. Things get better. Things get worse. The aim is to give visitors a new grasp and feel of the ongoing struggles in democracies around the world. Stunning art in the small multiples format brings out the spatiotemporal nature of societal transitions, against backdrop issues such as energy, housing, waste, farmland and forest. In each frame we see hopeful and frightful interplays between spending and saving. Problems emerge when one of the two parts of the existential anaglyph rapidly shrinks like Arctic ice, as factors cross thresholds. A broader, beyond-GDP concept of verdienvermogen is at play. Not enough spending could mean economic stress, social unrest and political conflict. Not enough saving and there will be climate breakdown and bankruptcy. So where does speculative design start and the gambling and betting end? Behind each fabular frame is a four-ratio problem. Each ratio reflects the level of sacrifice and self-restraint a society is willing to accept, against promises of prosperity and freedom. Some values seem to stabilise a frame while others cause collapse. Get the ratios right and we can have it all. Get them wrong and things get more desperate.
  • 3. © 2023 Structural ENOUGH OF THIS AND THAT There is ‘not enough’ of something or there is ‘too much’ of it. In between, there are thresholds of ‘just enough’ and ‘more than enough’. The four thresholds help us have meaningful debate over choice and compromises between this and that. THIS: Not enough travel Just enough travel More than enough travel Too much travel THAT: Not enough transport Just enough transport More than enough transport Too much transport THIS: Not enough forest Just enough forest More than enough forest Too much forest Too much housing More than enough housing Just enough housing THAT: Not enough housing But we entertain ourselves or annoy each other with simplistic understandings of complex issues or fantastical arguments of how things should change, how much they should change or why some things should not change at all.
  • 4. Fourcast A simple graph casting four concepts of interest that together indicate the state of a system. Concepts 1 and 2 represent choices, whereas 3 and 4 represent compromises. CONCEPT 2 CONCEPT 1 CONCEPT 4 CONCEPT 3
  • 5. PRIVACY SECURITY VERIFICATION SURVEILLANCE Do we have enough security? For example, we can visualise the inherent conflict and interdependence between privacy and security, intermediated by the concepts of surveillance and verification.
  • 6. FOREST BUILDINGS PARKS FARM Do we have enough housing? Or we can debate about the pressing need to rewild large expanses of land to capture carbon, across a densely populated democracy country that is also experiencing housing crisis.
  • 7. ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECONOMIC GROWTH ESCROW B Intergenerational equity At a much higher level of abstraction, we can explore the idea of two types of escrow accounts for ecological wealth, through which we could assure intergenerational equity. ESCROW A
  • 8. Agriculture Housing Transport Energy It is more likely (and prudent) that we look across several frames representing interlinked problems, to speculatively design policies and programmes that have public support. Multiple frames
  • 9. We could focus on a single problem and look across areas or regions. Examining local conditions and the peculiarities of regional solutions can help us better understand the problem. Amsterdam Eindhoven Rotterdam Utrecht Small multiples
  • 10. 2000 2010 2020 2030 And of course, we can look across periods to see how a problem has evolved over time – gotten better or worse – and analyse the factors critical to change and improvement. “Arctic ice”
  • 11. Of course, you’d be looking across a large set of frames you’re the mayor of a city, a member of parliament, the CEO of a multinational … … anyone concerned with economic growth and growing problem of climate change.
  • 12. Complicating factor Ratio 4 Co-factor Ratio 3 Key factor Ratio 1 Control factor Ratio 2 NOT X AND NOT Y X AND Y NOT X AND Y NOT Y AND X x+ x- y- y+ Four Factor Model
  • 13. y+ Factor 3 x+ Factor 2 y- Factor 4 x- Factor 1 Four Ratio Problem policy action policy resistance
  • 14. 1100 Trees as infrastructure? YES NO 3532 Keep fewer things in the freezer for shorter periods? YES NO 1200 Increase the speed limit from 70 km/h to 80 km/h. NO YES 1355 Build more houses in Eindhoven. YES NO 2700 Capacity limits on flights from Schiphol airport. NO YES 2061 Restaurants cannot refuse to serve tap water. NO YES
  • 17. 1100 Trees as infrastructure? YES NO Vox populi Seat of power signal processor policy unit TRANSITION IN PROGRESS
  • 21. The transition won’t be televised. But it will be plotted and printed.
  • 22. Structural BV Orteliusstraat 230H 1056 PH Amsterdam www.strctrl.org