Monday, February 8, 2016

Speculative Everything

1.Beyond Radical Design

“Dreams are powerful. They are repositories of our desire. They animate the entertainment industry and drive consumption. They can blind people to reality and provide cover for political horror. But they can also inspire us to imagine that things  could be radically different than they are today, and then believe we can progress toward that imaginary world.”

So are designers the dream creators? or do they create the dreams for the audience/viewer/public?

“Design speculations can act as a catalyst for collectively redefining our relationship to reality.”

“What we are interested the idea of possible futures and using them as tools to better understand the present and to discuss the kind of future people want, and, ones people do not want.”

Is their an agenda on the part of the designer/scientist/engineer/artist? There has to be some sort of biases, right?

Taxonomy of Futures
Cones of likelihood realities

Could design that Dunne and Raby are discussing help people participate more actively as citizen-consumers? and if so, how?

This is the question of chapter 1. Speculative designers are not interested in predicting the future, but rather to open up possibilities and create an idea pool for discussion, debate and dialogue. Through the act of speculating, possibly realities come to the forefront and we are able to make decisions on if we like that direction or not. But it s very important to note, Dunne and Raby are making sure to assert themselves not as decision makers, but rather producers of speculation.

Beyond Radical Design...

So where does radical design fit in the context today? Is their enough imaginations or too much cynicism? Can we hope for new futures? Or are we oppressed by our preconceived notions of society, economy, government, etc?  We live in a very different world of the 1960’s and 70’s when radical design flourished. How do we reach that kind of design pinnacle?

Answer: pluralism of ideology and values, but in a world of political correctness and taboo, how do we bring these up?

Consuming Monsters

Why encourage collaborations between scientists/artists?

Answer: Spark innovation through fresh perspectives.

What do scientists have that artists don’t? What do artists/designers have that scientists don’t?

The Le Laboratoire in Paris runs a year long program that supports the relationship between an artist and scientist to create a project/product/prototype that would be commercialized.

However, their seems to be confusion on Dunne and Raby’s part, in that, they insinuate that it is not about creating an actual product, so why discuss the nature of commercialization? And what kind of power does commercializing do for ideas? Are their benefits? Drawbacks?

Merging of science and art. At what point does the science flush out the art? Can art ever be flushed out? Are their ethical implications when merging art and science?

Example: The Tissue Culture and Art Project, Natural History of Enigma

Functional Fictions: it can pull new technological developments into imaginary but believable everyday situations so that we can explore possible consequences before they happen.

Ask questions, rather than find answers or fix/solve problems

Good intentions of scientists and designers?

“The trouble starts when science moves out of the laboratory into the marketplace, when consumer desire enters the equation and things become more irrational and profit driven.”

Why is it that consumerism/commercialization is what creates the trouble? It seems their are problematic and even ethical issues with creating/cloning organs, using tissue engineering to produce JFK’s foreskin, etc. Is it really lighthearted and when have we crossed the line? Do we even have a line?

This tissue engineering has a goal of “replacing existing organs or body parts.” Can this sort of research help in other ways? How does it encourage speculative design?

Interesting point here: With the encouragement and research surrounding these new bio-technologies, what happens with “built-in obsolesces?”  Take the Victim-less Leather Jacket? Or maybe a more relate-able example the film The Island?

What do we think about the impact and success of Kevin Grennan’s proposals for future robots? Why drawings?

“The project is presented as a series of drawings that immediately communicate its fictional status. There is no attempt her to make us believe they are real but simply to invite us to make-believe...Is this a future we would like? and, if not, how can we prevent it?”

“Speculative Ethics”---a tool for exploring notions of future good and future bad.

Dunne and Raby finish the chapter with this:

“There are no solutions in these projects or even answers, just questions, thoughts, ideas, and possibilities, all expressed through the language of design. They probe of beliefs and values, challenge or assumptions and encourage us to imagine how what we call nature could be different. They help us see that the way things are now is just one possibility and not necessarily the best one.”

A Methodological Playground: Fictional Worlds and Thought Experiements

“Speculating is based on imagination, the ability to literally imagine other worlds and alternatives.”


The realm of possible worlds: creating worlds of reflection, critique, provocation, and inspiration, starting with laws, ethics (which we saw in last chapter), political systems, social beliefs, values, fears, hopes.

Why is it that Literature and Fine art offer the most promising sources of inspiration for fictional worlds?

They can push the notion of fiction to the extreme, but why can science not do this? is it because they are operating in a specific context, with rules, regulations, methods, formulas?

-purest form
-3 faces: literary utopia, utopian practice, utopian social theory
-best kind is the blurring of all

Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism: fruits of utopian thinking that wanted to make the concept of their utopia come to reality. But, how can the idea of utopia be helpful with regards to speculative design?

-encourages idealism
-possibilities of alternatives

What does this quote mean? “For us, ideas are everything but can ideas ever be the story?”

Red Plenty is a speculative writing on the “what if” of Soviet communism succeeding  and how the planned economy would work.  This is just one example of a story (that is not a story, of course) of ideas examining and questioning the consequences for design whether “global, political, or economical.”

Ae these examples of counter-factuals?

But how do these literary stories situate themselves in everyday life? How do we relate?
How is it possible to apply this to design?

How are audiences able to relate more so to  speculative design, rather than speculative literature, film, gaming?

Thought Experiments/Constructions
-closer to conceptual art, rather than conceptual design, but why?
-Reductio Ad Absurdum: “logical argument in which one assumes a claim for the sake of an argument and derives an absurd or ridiculous outcome by taking it to its extreme, concluding that the original claim must have been wrong because it led to an absurd result.”
    --The Toaster Project
    --This project was not about materialism or going back to the basics, but about   the complex/difficult processes behind even the most simple conveniences, like toasting a piece of bread. It becomes absurd.

Counter-factuals: a historical fact that is changed to see what might have happened.

Doesn’t this sound like what if’s? or thought experiments? How are they different?

Through these counter-factuals, design is able to provide a fresh alternative to future-based thinking by presenting parallel worlds as thought experiments rather than predictions.

What ifs

More forward thinking, but similar to counter-factuals

They allow the author to strip narrative and plot away to basics in order to really explore ideas.

How can designers utilize the what-if way of thinking? What happens when speculations move from literature, film to coexist in our same space?

example: AVL, SlaveCity

***Important:the purpose of speculation is to “unsettle the present rather than predict the future”

Physical Fictions: Invitations to Make-Believe