In a world where camera technology and social media are constantly working to normalize a culture of “oversharing”, it’s no surprise that a product like FITT360 would eventually be brought to fruition. The “first-ever 360 degree neckband wearable camera”, designed by Linkflow, a company affiliated with Samsung, promises capturing one’s every memory. Featuring stunning, stabilized 360 ° footage and real time sharing capabilities, the FITT360 rivals existing camera models like the GoPro as it “captures all the little moments you may have missed,” (Yong-guk Kim, CEO of Linkflow).
Cool, so who needs this? Being obsessed with dystopian fiction as I am, this product can’t help but remind me of two works I’ve engaged recently: The Circle by Dave Eggers, and “The Entire History of You”, episode 3 of Black Mirror. Both stories employ the use of wearable camera technology to highlight issues/ concerns around the topic of surveillance and oversharing. As having the ability to relive our favorite memories in 360 ° cinema may sound fun and exciting, what are the implications of recording our entire surroundings? I mean, 360 degrees. That’s a pair of eyes in the back of your head. Is the risk of becoming responsible for all this information worth the entertainment aspect?
While the FITT360’s main audience right now is the security industry, they are working hard to get the camera to consumers. In creating prototypes, Linkflow had originally designed the camera as a headband to sit on the ears. As this failed, though, it was redesigned it to consider offensiveness. Samsung Newsroom stated, “A device that resembles the form of a pair of glasses or an earphone could seem like a surveillance device and people could get the impression that they are being watched…” Hmmm. So a camera embraced by the security industry, specifically redesigned to disguise the idea of surveillance…
Hey, I guess one upside is that with the FITT360 we could start watching YouTuber vlogs in VR mode, right?
In the past decade, alternatives to menstruation products, such as pads and tampons, have soared in popularity. At the top of this list of alternatives, including absorbent underwear and washable pads, you’ll find the DivaCup. The DivaCup is a reusable, eco-friendly silicone menstrual cup designed to revolutionize one’s menstrual care routine. It serves to completely replace pads and tampons, proving cost-effective for the consumer and sustainable for the environment. As it works to disrupt the billion-dollar menstruation industry, the DivaCup is a perfect example of incidental anti-capitalism.
The menstruation industry is one we (literally anyone with a vagina) don’t have a choice but to engage in. It exploits and profits directly off our reproductive health through the marketing of one-use products, such as pads and tampons, which often contain chemicals and non-biodegradable ingredients. These products pose risks to our bodies and environment and are often expensive, making menstrual health a “luxury” to those living in poverty or developing countries.
The DivaCup is a product that stands to turn the industry on its head. A sustainable, low-cost alternative to typical feminine hygiene products, it goes beyond just saving our wallets and our planet. It starts conversation and urges for global change. Diva International Inc. (creators of DivaCup) states, “Our mission to offer women a new way to care for themselves extends far beyond period care. We invest our knowledge, time and resources in community and international organizations that offer healthcare, empowerment and education to women and children around the world.” While the DivaCup is indeed a product sold for profit, its real mission lies in its passion to change the reproductive health industry to better people’s lives all around the world.
Understanding the dark matter pushes us beyond simple problem solving. It leads us to less easily perceptible outcomes, and informs the interdependent relationship between “the meta,” the context, and “the matter,” the product/solution. As strategic design oscillates between these two states, dark matter is the underlying layer that produces and enables systemic change through its effects on the process.
Considering the process, Hill’s juxtaposition of malleability vs. mutability helped further illustrate this conflict of “designing on a linear plane” I’ve been struggling with. Malleability being the result of a decision, Hill wraps up the reading by encouraging designers to “see the world as malleable,” also stating, “design does not always ‘know’.” Through discovering and understanding the dark matter we can reject “prescribed courses of action” and explore this realm of not knowing to reach solutions that may have never been imagined. Allowing the process to continuously inform the outcome grants us, as designers, a more immersive, investigative experience where we can be challenged to see the world in various new ways.
Through this weeks reading and the dark matter activity we explored in our last class, I am (again) brought back to the readings from Speculative Everything by Dunne and Raby. As speculative design encourages the idea of proposal in imagining many, different futures, I’m wondering about its relationship to the dark matter. The dark matter, though imperceptible outside of its effects, is real. It’s there. So, is the dark matter what links today’s world and the suggested one? Is disturbing it the key to creating meaningful conversation through speculative design? Norman Potter (1969) stated in Dark Matter and Trojan Horses, “…project its life to absurdity (in all directions: scale, function, material, etc.) and then pull back to some sense of boundary in what you propose to do.” Could this be where speculative design and the dark matter meet?
A current event that may further illustrate ideas about dark matter and speculative design would be the recent ban of Defense Distributed’s DEFCAD file for downloading 3D printable firearms. I actually originally discovered the first 3D printed gun, the “Liberator”, a few weeks ago through an article written in 2015 by Bruce and Stephanie Tharp. Interestingly enough, they used it as an example for discursive design – more specifically discursive design as a thought catalyst “to promote, and potentially have an effect upon social thought.” While the “Liberator” was not necessarily created from a speculative design perspective, it’s impossible as the viewer to ignore the socio-political commentary it creates. As concerns for gun control rise, the creator, Cody Wilson, has faced many serious govt. obstacles in sharing this product with the world. While time and time again Wilson has found workarounds to these govt. regulations, like in the example of “Renew Newcastle”, it’s his ability to manipulate the law that is enabling this systemic change ultimately. In understanding the dark matter, has Wilson found a way to quickly move a “product of the future” into the ever-concerning, dark present? Either way, the “Liberator” serves as a great, maybe terrifying, example for how small moves within a system may influence pattern shifts on a macro-level, just as Hill described, “A single bird within a flock does.”https://www.vox.com/2018/7/31/17634558/3d-printed-guns-trump-cody-wilson-defcad
Capitalism by Fulcher and Anti-Capitalism by Tormey serve as crash courses for understanding the fundamentals of capitalism and its history leading up to present day. Fulcher breaks it down for us into three main “eras” of capitalism: merchant capitalism, capitalist production and financial capitalism. As the unique traits of each era illustrate the timeline of capitalism’s growth, they also reveal the immorality that lies at its core. Early exploitation of wage laborers, the commercialization of leisure time and intertwining of the economy in legal and political framework are just a few among many corruptions that helped bring capitalism to the interconnected global economy it is today.
As Tormey digs deeper into our present economic state, it’s alarming to learn how recently capitalism has really started to spiral out of control towards decline. The introduction of/importance placed on interdependence, global trade, corporate consolidation and financialization in just the past almost 50 years alone has worked to completely change the economic landscape for our society, and not for the better. Especially considering the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, we’ve reached a turning point in capitalism where increased defiance and resistance is spreading amongst the mainstream. This recalls a conversation in an earlier class meeting where we discussed a Harvard University study that stated 51% of young adults between ages 18 and 29 do not support capitalism. Published in 2016, it seem the sentiments expressed in Tormey’s Anti-Capitalism (2004) prove to be growing, so I guess that leaves us with one question: where do we go from here?
Wolfgang Streeck’s How Will Capitalism End? gets to work breaking it down, presenting his own ideas on the matter, one of which I found particularly intriguing. Streeck states, “I suggest that we learn to think about capitalism coming to an end without assuming responsibility for answering the question of what one proposes to put in its place. “ This reminded me of a section of the reading from Speculative Everything where Dunne and Raby talk about how design cannot equal problem solving, as many challenges we face today are unfixable. Instead of searching for solutions to fix our surroundings, we should approach design from a place of introspection. How can we change our values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors to overcome? The collapse of capitalism is unfixable. Inevitable, even. As Streeck describes it as a process rather than an event, the only solution is to adapt as it unfolds.
Thinking about the future of design and sustainability, “The True Cost”, a documentary about fast fashion and its many detriments to society today, immediately came to mind throughout the readings. As issues of outsourcing, hyper consumption, pollution and sweatshop labor practices are revealed throughout the film as direct effects of globalization, the stark comparison between the third world countries in which are being absolutely terrorized, socially and environmentally, by fast-fashion companies, like Forever 21 and H&M, leaves your jaw on the floor. All for a pair of $10 jeans? It’s a reality that drains one of all hope. We’ve created a world where clothing is dangerously cheap, design has been reduced to “trends” and throwaway culture has been normalized, if not glamourized, through the mainstream. In a society where income/wealth inequality is rampant, we’re forced to ask when and if we’ll ever see the light at the end of this tunnel. Is this where design after capitalism begins?
As I’ve reached a point in my education where I feel like I’ve gained a wide degree of knowledge and skills, I’m starting to ask “why?” What is my purpose as a designer? Where do I fit in? Throughout the years I’ve felt insecurity as a student, as the co-op program seemingly favors corporate jobs and rigid portfolios over risk-taking and experimentation. So, I was excited this week to see the readings shed some light and clarity on the many fields of design, their unique intentions and approaches, and reason for validation.
Bruce and Stephanie Tharp’s “ The 4 Fields of Industrial Design” begins to break it down for us in what they call “the Design Garage”. This “garage” holds 4 fields of design: Commercial, Responsible, Experimental and Discursive. Throughout the reading, they stress the importance of understanding the why, or the primary driver. Identifying these drivers/intentions of design can aid understanding and focus of projects, which overall leads to better communication between designer and consumer.
As our Speculative City studio has already embarked on exploring one of these fields, discursive design, I wanted to dig deeper to really grasp its meaning. Discursive design seems to be the umbrella term for a broad range of practice in the design world. At its core, it’s about starting conversation. It considers design a tool for thinking, rather than doing, and works to communicate ideas through interaction. While the intention of all terms under the “discursive design” umbrella is to engage intellect, each is unique in their approach and effect.
Branching off of discursive design, speculative design was described in our last class as “design without a happy ending.” I felt “Speculative Everything” by Dunne and Raby really expanded on that quote by describing speculative design as a rejection of problem solving (a traditional approach to design thinking), and more an invitation to freethinking. There is no inherent “good” or “bad”, just imaginations of what COULD be. Speculative design pushes process. If we can imagine many futures, desired and undesired, we can have better discussions about the futures we want and how to achieve them.
Considering the Probable/Plausible/Possible/Preferable chart, the aim is to create scenarios that push boundaries and ask questions, but always remain in a realm of possibility. This section of the reading from “Speculative Everything” really reminded me of one of my favorite Netflix series, Black Mirror. While the futures illustrated in Black Mirror may seem far off initially, many are actually already happening or taking form in some way. This begs the viewer to look beyond the entertaining level of the show and think critically about the implication of these near technologies, societies, etc., to reflect on our own values, beliefs and ideas. While many episodes paint the future as a technological dystopia, its that level of provocation that gets people talking. Dunne and Raby touched on this as a necessity of speculative design by stating, “They (possible futures) usually take the form of scenarios, often starting with a what-if question, and are intended to open up spaces of debate and discussion; therefore, they are by necessity provocative, intentionally simplified, and fictional.” I’m eager, in this course, to take this same approach Black Mirror applies to creating future scenarios, and apply it to my own design process to expand critical thinking and imagine new horizons.