Speculative Everything

Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming

ANTHONY DUNNE
FIONA RABY
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf7j7
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Speculative Everything
    Book Description:

    Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. InSpeculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be -- to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want).Speculative Everythingoffers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more -- about everything -- reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31850-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. 1. BEYOND RADICAL DESIGN?
    (pp. 1-10)

    It is hard to say what today’s dreams are; it seems they have been downgraded to hopes–hope that we will not allow ourselves to become extinct, hope that we can feed the starving, hope that there will be room for us all on this tiny planet. There are no more visions. We don’t know how to fix the planet and ensure our survival. We are just hopeful.

    As Fredric Jameson famously remarked, it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternative to capitalism. Yet alternatives are exactly what we need. We need...

  6. 2. A MAP OF UNREALITY
    (pp. 11-32)

    Once designers step away from industrial production and the marketplace we enter the realm of the unreal, the fictional, or what we prefer to think of as conceptual design–design about ideas. It has a short but rich history and it is a place where many interconnected and not very well understood forms of design happen–speculative design,¹ critical design,² design fiction,³ design futures,⁴ antidesign, radical design, interrogative design,⁵ design for debate, adversarial design,⁶ discursive design,⁷ futurescaping,⁸ and some design art.

    For us, this separation from the marketplace creates a parallel design channel free from market pressures and available to...

  7. 3. DESIGN AS CRITIQUE
    (pp. 33-46)

    Once we accept that conceptual design is more than a style option, corporate propaganda, or designer self-promotion, what uses can it take on? There are many possibilities–socially engaged design for raising awareness; satire and critique; inspiration, reflection, highbrow entertainment; aesthetic explorations; speculation about possible futures; and as a catalyst for change.

    For us, one of the most interesting uses for conceptual design is as a form of critique. Maybe it is because of our background in design but we feel that the privileged space of conceptual design should serve a purpose. It is not enough that it simply exists...

  8. 4. CONSUMING MONSTERS: BIG, PERFECT, INFECTIOUS
    (pp. 47-68)

    One area in which design as critique has obvious practical applications is science research. By moving upstream and exploring ideas before they become products or even technologies, designers can look into the possible consequences of technological applications before they happen. We can use speculative designs to debate potential ethical, cultural, social, and political implications.

    A weird and wonderful world is taking shape around us.² Genetics, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and neuroscience are all challenging our understanding of nature and suggesting new design possibilities at a level and scale never before possible. If we take just one area, biotechnology, and look more...

  9. 5. A METHODOLOGICAL PLAYGROUND: FICTIONAL WORLDS AND THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS
    (pp. 69-88)

    Although design usually references sculpture and painting for material, formal and graphic inspiration, and more recently the social sciences for protocols on working with and studying people–if we are interested in shifting design’s focus from designing for how the world is now to designing for how things could be–we will need to turn to speculative culture and what Lubomír Doležel has called an “experimental laboratory of the world-constructing enterprise.”

    Speculating is based on imagination, the ability to literally imagine other worlds and alternatives. InSuch Stuff as DreamsKeith Oatley writes that “[i]magination gives us entry to abstraction,...

  10. 6. PHYSICAL FICTIONS: INVITATIONS TO MAKE-BELIEVE
    (pp. 89-100)

    As science fiction author Bruce Sterling pointed out in a public conversation with us about design fiction, there are many forms of fictional objects outside art and design, including patents and failed inventions.¹ These are fictional objects but they are accidental fictions. We are more interested in intentional fictional objects, physical fictions that celebrate and enjoy their status with little desire to become “real.”

    One way of considering the fictional objects of speculative design is as props for nonexistent films. On encountering the object, the viewer imagines his or her own version of the film world the object belongs to....

  11. 7. AESTHETICS OF UNREALITY
    (pp. 101-138)

    How do you design for unreality, and what should it look like? How should the unreal, parallel, impossible, unknown, and yet-to-exist be represented? And how, in a design, can you simultaneously capture the real and not-real? This is where the aesthetic challenge for speculative design lies, in successfully straddling both. To fall on either side is too easy.

    As designers working outside a strictly commercial context and aiming to engage people with complex ideas, one could argue that similar to film, our designs should be about clear communication. But for us, this assumes a simple model of engagement based on...

  12. 8. BETWEEN REALITY AND THE IMPOSSIBLE
    (pp. 139-158)

    Speculative designs depend on dissemination and engagement with a public or expert audience; they are designed to circulate. The usual channels are exhibitions, publications, press, and the Internet. Each channel or medium creates its own issues of accessibility, elitism, populism, sophistication, audience, and so on. This need for dissemination means speculative designs have to be striking but a danger is they end up being little more than visual icons for communicating an idea, in an instant. The best speculative designs do more than communicate; they suggest possible uses, interactions, and behaviors not always obvious at a quick glance.

    So far,...

  13. 9. SPECULATIVE EVERYTHING
    (pp. 159-189)

    InDream: Re-imaging Progressive Politics in an Age of FantasyStephen Duncombe argues that the radical left has relied too heavily on reason, ignoring the place fantasy and fabricated realities play in our lives. From theme parks to soap operas to brands, whether we like it or not, we now live within a multitude of realities. Duncombe argues that radicals need to embrace this and use it to critical effect, to subvert spectacle for public good and progressive politics. This is particularly challenging for designers because we are usually on the wrong side of spectacle, helping construct ones that encourage...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 190-203)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 204-216)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 217-224)