Yesterday, Fiona Raby came and joined me at Goldsmiths. I invited her to give a lecture and then talk to the MA students about their current project (which is called ‘Fictional Futures’ and is about the design of imagined, science fiction inspired, future artefacts).
One of the projects Fiona presented was created for the Science Museum Energy Gallery (images of three scenarios exploring the ‘ethical, cultural and social impact of different energy futures’). Listening to Fiona about her and Tony’s work was great.
One of things that hit me – which may seem very obvious – is how important story telling is to design. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about Science Fiction recently, and Fiona’s talk made me realise that designers engaging in ‘future products’ or ‘future scenarios’ need to paint a picture of the future, they need to use any means possible in order to make the audience ‘believe’ – the type of narrative varies massively between the different types of design explored, how far into the future the scenario explores and who exists and engages in the imagined future.
In the Science Museum project there's a wonderful poetic and humor in the narrative, they hint at enough and leave enough to the imagination - all this is brought together in brilliant photogrpahs.
Design always engages in prediction, whether it’s how things are used or read, what social effects resonate from the design, or even down to the commercial success of the design. One of things I think design does very well within a research context is the construction of carefully crafted visions of the future – these visions open up potentials for the here and now.
The transformative potential of Utopia depends on locating it in the future, on thinking through the process of transformation from the present, and identifying the potential agents of transformation (Levitas, 2003:14 in Dark Horizons)