Reading Response 4 / Bridget McCormick

“The goal of the future is full unemployment.”

(Arthur C. Clarke)

I am so impressed by the simplicity and power of this quote. These few words quickly encompass idea(s) so complex and contested that we may not even begin discussing them for 10-15 years. Upon first read, I wondered: how could a future with full unemployment possibly mean we have progressed forward? This question, of course, was answered in the text to follow.

Out of all the readings for this response, I have to say the excerpt from Inventing the Future (Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams) was the most compelling / informative to me. It was simple yet articulate– highly structured, yet still engaged my imagination as a reader. It was through reading this passage that I realized how the concepts of automation, reduction of the work week, UBI, and reimagining work ethic are all intertwined and all interdepend on each other to some extent. In my head I was able to see how improvement in one (if not all) of these areas would result in chain reactions for the remaining…

Simply put– this increased my excitement for imagining potential futures. It gave me more, highly useful rhetoric tools and ideas to work with moving forward. I went crazy with Acrobat’s highlight feature.

“None of the proposals presented will be radically new, but this is part of their strength: it is not a free-floating project, since frameworks and movements already exist and have traction in the world.” (107)

I think this quote is very important to consider moving forward with imagined futures within Speculative City. As mentioned in prior readings (I can’t remember which one!) good speculative design falls within the realm of imaginative– yet holds roots in what is possible (reality).

I can’t help but relate discussions regarding this with those held in my Communication Theory class this semester. We often discuss the qualities/merits of objectivist vs. interpretivist theory. With the aide of my Communication Theory notes, allow me to attempt to bring speculative design into the discussion of the dichotomy between these two perspectives.

To each camp, a question is proposed: What is the nature of human beings?

OBJECTIVISTS seek to explain an event in the real world by recourse to a general law. They believe that communication behavior is governed by forces that are predictable and generalizable.They contend that the psychical and social worlds exist “out there” and are independent of individual perception. Through a speculative design lens, an objective theorist might posit that there are definite, concrete solutions for imagined futures “out there” just waiting for human discovery. They would see [automation, reduction of the work week, UBI, reimagining work ethic] as testable (and potentially falsifiable) solutions to the issues presented by capitalism.

INTERPRETIVISTS contend that much of human behavior is a result of free choice. People pick the social rules that govern their interactions– not necessarily due to prior conditions of cause/effect laws. Interpretivists admit that people are free to change their minds– to behave irrationally, and for the rules to be altered. Interpretivism is interesting to consider through the lens of Inventing the Future. One might posit that the current economic climate is somewhat due to people “choosing” to participate in the chaotic cycle of capitalism of their own volition (free-will).

This idea in particular gets me riled up!!! Because: How much of capitalism IS OUR CHOICE?

Does the hegemonic nature of Capitalism mean it is an inherent system for us all to accept? Consider: is it not also our choice to become divergent within that norm? One might say that the level of participation/engagement with capitalism varies depending on your level of privilege in society. I realize I am spiraling off into a tangent. I can FEEL the short circuits where I lack the connective tissue to synthesize these two courses I so desperately want to!!!

Ref: Introduction To Communication Theory (COMM 3007), Prof Evan R. Griffin

Author: Bridget

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