Reading Response 6 | Andrew Chambers

The opportunities design has to make radical change are much more limited when you are restricted to the realm of current reality. I found it very helpful and inspiring to hear how “unreal”, “unthinkable”, and even “impossible” ideas or worlds are absolutely necessary to design for. It seems very real to me that todays world is heading toward that of a monoculture and quickly limiting the potential for imagining these future possibilities.

I found the discussion surrounding micro-utopias incredibly fascinating. While at first thought of this notion as unrealistic or even potentially dangerous, on further reflection I realize that it is not necessarily the idea of a micro-utopia that is novel but rather the way of thinking about the world in order to come up with it. It was particularly fascinating to read the section on Anarcho-Evolutionists as this sect seems to fit rather hand in hand with my speculative vision. When researching and preparing this vision I kept running into the roadblock that is not all people will want to subscribe to this new way of life, that some may actually view it as more of a dystopia. When considering it as a potential micro-utopia, one that not everyone has to subscribe to, it seems so much more feasible.

While all of the micro-utopias explored may not seem feasible or may come across as to sci-fi, their creation has far greater reaching implications. It goes to show just how important it is to allow or even force people to call into question the very systems that make up their everyday lives. By proposing something radically different, Dunne and Raby propose something powerful to the viewer, they give them the ability to examine for themselves this new way of looking at things. A new way to examine a synthesis of research in a form much more conducive than reading a report, they are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a speculative reality.

While reading Cameron Tonkinwise’s article “Just Design” I felt mixed emotions, I found myself agreeing with most of his points, while feeling rather uneasy about others. I certainly agree that good design should embody “future, fiction, speculative, critique, provoke, discourse, interrogate, probe, and play” related aspects, I believe that the notion that all design must do this to be adequate is arrogant and harmful. I believe design is a process, a way of thinking, and an art that can embody thousands of forms and span multiple disciplines.

By understanding the systems at work in an alternative version of reality can prove extremely helpful in “Large scale systemic change” in the real world. James Bridle, in his interview on why technology is creating a new dark age, puts this very starkly. Bridle points out that that the use of fiction and fantasies can be instrumental in how we can “predict about long-term futures”. While science fiction is often written off as useless futurism I have so much better of an understanding of its role in figuring out our world and how it perfectly aligns with the act of design. By imagining worlds that operate off of different systems than our own, we can truly open our eyes to the way that things work. It is not until we as humans understand the world that we live in and how it works that we can change it for the better. It is the “weird, strange, and difficult to understand” that deserves focus, a focus which is best meet with a speculative view on design.