“Design Fiction is like archaeology for the future”
June 22, 2022 2:54 AM   Subscribe

Design Fiction has come a long way in the 10+ years since it all began. It's been gaining popularity since then, yet people still misunderstand what it is all about. So its creators made a short film to explain Design Fiction and why it's useful.

And here's a previous post about Design Fiction from 2016: The future will be boring.
posted by iamkimiam (15 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
More from the Near Future Laboratory (I meant to work this into the OP, oops).
posted by iamkimiam at 3:01 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

So fictional spelling too?
posted by MtDewd at 4:22 AM on June 22

Not fictional, places outside of America exist! And they have their own spellings for things, it's wild. :P
posted by iamkimiam at 4:33 AM on June 22 [26 favorites]

That started out super pretentious, but it got a lot better once they got around to the actual ideas. I'm into it. Creating little hypothetical consumables and incidental objects from imagined futures could provide a literally tangible insight.
posted by poe at 4:51 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

This is great! Favorited so I can remember to get the book.

Poe, it's unfortunate, but I think product design has an inherent air of pretentiousness, mostly from the fact that you have a number of people in a room whose job is to take made up problems very seriously.

Work like this is really interesting in that it's taking that energy and toolset for thinking creatively and applying it to something more useful than where to put the grippy co-molded rubber on the toothbrush handle.

Many good things also come out of product design, so please don't think I'm being overly dismissive of the (my) profession.
posted by jellywerker at 4:59 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]

Sounds a bit like science fiction by people who don't want to stoop to write genre fiction.
posted by zardoz at 6:02 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]

I think I was introduced to Design Fiction through Bruce Sterling who is an enthusiastic advocate. And I like a lot of the stuff he described and referenced, BUT...

Isn't this still kind of like steering by looking at the rear view mirror? I know sans time machines we're all working from past materials and assumptions, but doesn't that make the 'archaeology for the future' analogy optimistically strained to the point of incredulity? Especially since we seem to take seriously how small changes have large effects on the contingency of history?

I really do like it and I'm not trying to be grumpy. I guess I'm looking for a better understanding and shorthand for the way in which these practitioners bridge their work with real futures that may be very different.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:21 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

Men who look alike.
Lots of words in those bios.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:27 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

I gathered that the point was to be speculative. Not flying-car speculative, but more like Max Headroom's "20 minutes into the future" speculative, or creating some of the furniture and objects that show up in William Gibson's work.
posted by jquinby at 6:28 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]

I too see it as speculative. A lens to inspire thinking and small storytelling. And from that, possible insights about our near future and how we can adapt to it. Tiny, light bridges.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:53 AM on June 22

I think it's also about making a point about the less obvious or unforseen and sometimes banal consequences of specific choices. By taking it to the point of making a physical object, you create something to anchor the conversation around, and that can help illustrate the points you want to make more clearly than just discussing in the abstract.

I would assume the actual link to real world work is along the lines of near future explorations of trends for large corporations who want to have ideas in the product pipeline for 5-10-20 years out, ready to act or influence those trends as they mature.
posted by jellywerker at 7:12 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

I wonder if David Cronenberg's new film Crimes of The Futrure could be classified as design fiction?
posted by hoodrich at 12:22 PM on June 22

I am going to start a Design Fiction Club at the civil engineering firm where I work (as the marketing guy). This is going to be fun.
posted by gestalt saloon at 1:08 PM on June 22

Well of course if Brawndo has electrolytes it’s good for your crops. That’s not design fiction, that’s just common sense.
posted by Mchelly at 1:25 PM on June 22

I'm reminded of the Frederik Pohl line "A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam."

Black Mirror does a lot of storytelling by way of gadgets and bits. Who would have predicted malls with stalls selling every possible phone case except the one that fits yours when mobile phones were first around? Or the selfie stick for that matter?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:40 AM on June 23

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