ArticlePDF Available

Speculative Design: Crafting the Speculation

  • Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay

Abstract and Figures

The article positions the author's work as speculative design but—like the term design fictions—is open to several interpretations. How is the fictional character of such work conceptualised and produced? What kinds of speculation are involved? The article considers the value of one particular approach and argues that speculative design serves two distinct purposes: first, to enable us to think about the future; second, to critique current practice. Methods are described through case studies, either of the author's own projects or projects completed by graduates of the design interactions course at the Royal College of Art. A key concept is the ‘perceptual bridge’—the means by which designs engage their audience. The article argues that a vital factor in the success of a Speculative Design proposal is the careful management of the speculation, specifically what informs the use of technology, aesthetics, behaviour, interaction and function of the designed artefact.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Speculative design:
crafting the speculation
James Auger
Royal College of Art - Design Interactions Department
The article positions the author’s work as speculative
design but—like the term design fictions—is open to
several interpretations. How is the fictional character
of such work conceptualised and produced? What
kinds of speculation are involved? The article considers
the value of one particular approach and argues that
speculative design serves two distinct purposes: first,
to enable us to think about the future; second, to critique
current practice. Methods are described through case
studies, either of the author’s own projects or projects
completed by graduates of the design interactions
course at the Royal College of Art. A key concept is
the ‘perceptual bridge’—the means by which designs
engage their audience. The article argues that a vital
factor in the success of a Speculative Design proposal
is the careful management of the speculation, specifi-
cally what informs the use of technology, aesthetics, be-
haviour, interaction and function of the designed
Keywords: speculative design, design fictions, critical
design, futures, evolution of technology
1 Introduction
In this article I present methods and strategies used
in the practice of speculative design, describing
how a combination of informed extrapolations of
an emerging technology and the application of
techniques borrowed from film, literature,
ecology, comedy and psychology can be used to
develop and present plausible futures. I will
describe the methods through the presentation of
case studies, either of my own projects (Auger
Loizeau) or projects completed by tutors and
graduates/students on the design interactions
course at the Royal College of Art where I have
been teaching and researching since 2005.
2 Historical and semantic issues
I begin with an attempt to address the complex
issues surrounding the definition of speculative
design, as it has much in common with other
design related activities such as critical design,
discursive design,
design probes
and design
There is much overlap between these practices,
the differences are subtle and based primarily on
geographical or contextual usage: all remove the
constraints from the commercial sector that
define normative design processes; use models
and prototypes at the heart of the enquiry; and
use fiction to present alternative products,
systems or worlds.
My choice was informed mostly by semantics
and the subsequent loading of experience: the
physical object presented as a ‘design fiction’
may be identical to a ‘speculative design’ object
Digital Creativity, 2013
#2013 Taylor & Francis
or a ‘design probe,’ and so on; however, the use of
the modifier gives the cultural object a substan-
tially different value. For example, the word
‘fiction’ before design immediately informs the
viewer that the object is not real; ‘probes’ infer
that the object is part of an investigation; and
both ‘discursive’ and ‘critical’ reveal the inten-
tions of the object as an instigator of debate or phi-
losophical analysis. These terms act to dislocate
the object from everyday life, exposing their fic-
tional or academic status. For those within the
design or research community these semantic
details are less problematic as familiarity with
the discourse makes the terminology less impor-
tant, but for those unfamiliar with these practices,
semantics fundamentally affect how the work is
experienced and assessed. As one of the core
motivations of this practice is to shift the discus-
sion on technology beyond the fields of experts
to a broad popular audience, the choice of ‘specu-
lative’ is preferable as it suggests a direct corre-
lation between ‘here and now’ and existence of
the design concept.
3 Speculative futures and alternative
Having settled on speculative design, it is now
necessary to explore some of the difficulties with
this term, as it is not ideal. With its etymological
baggage, the word has a strong leaning towards
conjecture; many of the classic ‘visions of the
future’ such as jet packs and flying cars are wild
speculations, playing to spectacle and techno-
centric dreams rather than being based on logical
trajectories or contained by the rules of real life.
Through acknowledging these rules, collaborating
with scientists and by not straying too far into the
future, it is possible to craft the speculation into
something more poignant, based on logical iter-
ations of an emerging technology and tailored to
the complex and subtle requirements of an ident-
ified audience.
The second problematic with the word specu-
lative is related to the close relationship between
speculation and the future. Here it is important to
state that speculative design is not only to encou-
rage contemplation on the technological future
but can also provide a system for analysing, criti-
quing and re-thinking contemporary technology.
To ease confusion I separate the practice into
two categories:
First, existing paradigms can inform future
developments of technology: speculative futures
imagine, through the extrapolation of contempor-
ary systems and product lineages, near future pro-
ducts and services. These are intended to act as a
form of cultural litmus paper, testing potential pro-
ducts and services on both a mainstream audience
and within industry, before they exist.
Second, alternative presents are design pro-
posals that utilise contemporary technology
but apply different ideologies or configurations
to those currently directing product develop-
ment. This method is similar to the historiogra-
phical practice of counterfactual histories
the literary genre of alternate histories,
rather than focusing on asking ‘what if’ of his-
torical events and imagining the effect on here
and now, it shifts the emphasis onto artefacts.
Here, we break free of a lineage at a certain his-
torical point to question why things are the way
they are.
4 Speculative design: a methodology
One of the key factors responsible for the success
of a speculative design project is the careful man-
agement of the speculation; if it strays too far into
the future to present implausible concepts or alien
technological habitats, the audience will not relate
to the proposal resulting in a lack of engagement or
connection. In effect, a design speculation requires
a bridge to exist between the audience’s perception
of their world and the fictional element of the
concept. Inspiration and influence for this ‘percep-
tual bridge’ can come from diverse fields such as
observational comedy, psychology, ecology,
horror films and illusion for the insights they
offer into the complex working of the human
mind and how it can be carefully manipulated to
elicit reaction. Below I describe some of these
bridging techniques.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
4.1 Design for context: the ecological
The designer must consider the environment and
context in which speculative future products or
services would exist; this could be a specific
space such as the home or office or a cultural or
political situation based on current developments
or trends.
This could be described as an ecologi-
cal approach to speculative design
and assists in
grounding the concept in a familiar or logical
Below are two descriptions of the Martians
from The War of the Worlds. The first is an
excerpt from H.G. Wells’s original novel of
1898, the second from Steven Spielberg’s film
version of 2005. If we take the Martian to be a
speculative object, it is possible to compare the
two approaches to its design:
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge
...But looking, I presently saw something stir-
ring within the shadow: greyish billowy move-
ments, one above another, and then two
luminous discs—like eyes ... A big greyish
rounded hulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear,
was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylin-
der ... The incessant quivering of the mouth,
the gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous
breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere,
the evident heaviness and painfulness of move-
ment due to the greater gravitational energy on
earth ...Suddenly the monster vanished. It had
toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen
into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great
mass of leather. (Wells 2004, 19)
‘I tried a bunch of different heads, but
Steven Spielberg wanted to pay tribute to the
Figure 1. Alternative presents and speculative futures. At the origin is here and now—everyday life and real products available on the
high street. The lineage of these products can be traced back to when the technology became available to iterate them beyond their
existing states. In Figure 1, the technology element on the left hand side represents research and development work, the higher the line
the more emergent the technology and the longer and less predictable its route to everyday life. As we move to the right of the diagram
and into the future we see that speculative designs exist as projections of the lineage, developed using techniques that focus on
contemporary public understanding and desires, extrapolated through imagined developments of an emerging technology.
Alternative presents step out of the lineage at some poignant time in the past to re-imagine our technological present. These designs
can challenge and question existing cultural, political and manufacturing systems.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
shape of the spaceship in the original movie,’
Sims said. ‘No matter what I did with that
head, we always went back to this shape. For
the eyes, Spielberg kept saying they should be
overly dilated, refracting with light almost
like you’d see in a cat. Spielberg wanted one
leg in the back and two in the front. At Stan
Winston’s we did an animation of the alien
crawling on the ceiling, showing how his legs
would function as arms as well and pick stuff
up while using the other leg to balance.’
(Hart 2008)
The question I pose here is not which interpret-
ation is the most compelling, engaging, terrifying
or memorable but which is the most likely. The
celluloid version has a certain familiarity, resem-
bling many other filmic depictions of disconcert-
ing aliens in recent years. It displays its physical
superiority to humans with a cat-like deftness
employing its several arms to move three-dimen-
sionally around a room. It is without question cap-
tivating and terrifying and therefore perfect as a
form of entertainment, which arguably was the
primary factor influencing its design. Wells’s
Martian, on the other hand, is clearly suffering,
ungainly, awkward and struggling to cope with
Earth’s gravity. Wells trained as a biologist,
would have a good understanding of the concept
of adaptation. Although this is pure supposition,
logic suggests that Martians would be mal-
adapted to life on Earth and his depiction applies
this theory to inform the design of the creature.
A similar approach has been employed by
designers, Dunne and Raby in their project ‘Tech-
nological Dream Series: No. 1, Robots’ (2007)
(see Figures 2 and 3). The stereotypical design of
many robots could be compared to Spielberg’s
alien; Dunne and Raby dismantled this familiar
image by designing their robots to be harmonious
with the contemporary domestic landscape. The
concept of adaptation here informs the design
process, delivering objects that display an existen-
tial logic (or not, in Wells’s case) in their intended
environment. Any experience that challenges a pre-
conception will at first appear odd, but here the
detail and finish of the artefacts, combined with
the short explanations describing their functions
and modes of interaction, entices the audience
into exploring the concept further. The project suc-
cessfully offers a new perspective on domestic
robots by designing for the complex sensibilities
of people: robots become needy and subservient
to overcome our fear of them; furniture is adapted
to accommodate new technologies—it appears
familiar but has advanced function; technological
interactions take place in odd but intimate ways.
Even though their function is little described, we
could imagine living with these robots due to
their compatibility with the domestic habitat.
4.2 The uncanny: desirable discomfort
In order to elicit audience engagement and con-
templation on a subject it is sometimes helpful
for a speculation to provoke. If a design proposal
is too familiar it is easily assimilated into the nor-
mative progression of products and would pass
unnoticed. However, proposals dealing with sensi-
tive subjects such as sex or death can quite easily
stray too far into provocative territory, resulting
in revulsion or outright shock. The design solution
is complex and contradictory: provocative whilst
at the same time familiar. Sigmund Freud (1990)
described this paradoxical reaction humans have
that invoke a sense of familiarity whilst at the
same time being foreign as ‘uncanny’ or the term
used by social psychologists, cognitive disso-
This is a complex and difficult reaction
to manage but when achieved responses to the
design concept tend to be both meaningful and
strong. As Freud describes, the most powerful
experiences of the uncanny come through death,
such as dead bodies, spirits and ghosts (ibid.
364); severed body parts and malfunctioning
bodies such as epileptic fits and madness (ibid.
366). Freud goes on to suggest that by using the
uncanny, ‘the story-teller has a peculiarly directive
power over us; by means of the moods he can put
us into, he is able to guide the current of our
emotions’ (ibid. 375. emphasis in original). Here
he refers specifically to literary works such as
the novels of gothic horror exemplified by Edgar
Allan Poe’s, The Fall of the House of Usher
(1839) and Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein (1818)
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
His limbs were in proportion, and I had
selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!
Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered
the work of muscles and arteries beneath;
his hair was of a lustrous black, and
flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but
these luxuriances only formed a more horrid
contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed
almost of the same colour as the dun-white
sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled
complexion and straight black lips. (Shelley
18181992, 58)
Shelley creates the uncanny through first describ-
ing familiar signs of wellbeing and normality,
then contrasting these with signs of disease and
death. More recently, this deft juggling of signs
has been practised by film directors such as
Stanley Kubrick (The Shining, 1980) and
William Friedkin (The Exorcist, 1973) to elicit
powerful cinematic effect.
Careful management of the uncanny is impera-
tive when a project attempts to deal with subjects
such as death or the invasion of the human body
(for example, technological implants). In the
genre of horror it is preferable to exploit the
uncanny to elicit maximum psychological effect;
however, for a speculative design project a more
careful approach is required.
The ‘Afterlife’ project (Auger Loizeau,
20012009) directly touched on many of the sen-
sitive issues surrounding the subject of human
death. The core concept was the utilisation of a
microbial fuel cell
in the post-death processing
of a human being, charging a dry-cell battery
during the decomposition process of the body
(see Figures 4 and 5). The installation of the
project at the New York Museum of Modern Art
(MoMA) exhibition, Design and the Elastic
Mind (2007), presented the piece as the core of a
metaphysical dialogue examining the cultural
shift from belief systems upheld by organised
Figure 2. Dunne and Raby, Technological Dream Series: No. 1, Robots—Robot 3 (2007). More and more of our data, even our most
personal and secret information, will be stored on digital databases. How do we ensure that only we can access it? This robot is a
sentinel, it uses retinal scanning technology to decide who accesses our data. In films, iris scanning is always based on a quick glance.
This robot demands that you stare into its eyes for a long time, it needs to be sure it is you. On anotherlevel, it asks what new forms of
furniture might evolve in response to future technological developments.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
religion to the more factual basis of science and
technology. Here, technology acts to provide con-
clusive proof of life after death, life being con-
tained as energy in the battery.
Unfortunately the viewers of the exhibition
chose mostly to ignore the intellectual aspect of
the project to focus on the more unsavoury
aspects, namely tampering with the process of
death, the passing of a loved one and the material
activity of the human body during the operation of
the fuel cell. This resulted in simple revulsion as
the benefits of the concept were overlooked: The
audience experienced the proposal as too uncanny.
In 2009 we were invited to present ‘Afterlife’
at Experimenta 09, the Design Biennale in
Lisbon, Portugal. This provided the opportunity
to reflect on the problems of the MoMA installa-
tion, specifically how the presentation could be
adjusted to move beyond material factors and
revulsion to touch the deeper sensibilities of the
audience. In addressing this problem we shifted
the emphasis from the fuel cell and coffin to the
existence and function of the battery; this effec-
tively put the focus on the familiar aspect of the
uncanny experience. To communicate the diver-
sity and possibility of battery applications we
invited fifteen colleagues to propose what they
would do with either their own Afterlife battery
or that of a loved one. They were also asked to
write a short paragraph describing their choice:
Why an aeroplane? Why a Spitfire MK1? (See
Figure 6.)
Figure 4. Auger–Loizeau (2008), Afterlife coffin with
microbial fuel cell.
Figure 5. Auger–Loizeau (2001), engraved Afterlife battery.
Figure 3. Dunne and Raby, Technological Dream Series: No. 1,
Robots—Robot 4 (2007). This one is very needy. Although
extremely smart it is trapped in an underdeveloped body and
depends on its owner to move it about. Neediness is designed
into very smart products to maintain a feeling of control.
Originally, manufacturers would have made robots speak
human languages, but over time they will evolve their own
language. You can still hear human traces in its voice.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
I don’t feel the need to be remembered as an
object. I’d like my energy to create an act.
Since a child flying has fascinated me, not
sure why, just does. I have always wanted to
fly but have never completely felt at ease
enough to think I could manage it without
killing myself. I still intend to fly myself in
one way or another but just in case I don’t
this will ensure it.
Very rarely man creates an object that con-
nects with the human soul; anyone who has
witnessed a Spitfire and especially the MK1
in flight will have felt that connection. It
looks, sounds, functions and is just ‘right,’ it
is perfect. The curve of the wings, it’s pro-
portions, it’s functionality, it was also fitted
with the Rolls Royce Merlin which without
exception, before, after or at anytime in the
future is the greatest four stroke engine ever
produced. (Tom O’Brien, 2009)
We’d use our battery for a euthanasia
machine. (See Figure 7.)
As we are a couple, once one goes, we’re not
sure how long the other one would be able to
hang on. So, if it’s all too much, we could use
the energy from the first one to go, to help
the second one on their way. I’m not sure if it
would be a form of conceptual murder or
not, but definitely an ‘assisted’ suicide.
Ideally we’d like to propose an object based
on an existing machine, it would foreground
the battery, which would be inscribed and
silver-plated. We would probably replace the
usual questions the machine asks you to
check your state-of-mind with something
more personal.
We imagine you would set it up on a small
table by your bed or a chair, insert the
battery, put the mask on, then after a few
minutes, insert the tube into the device which
causes a green light to come on letting you
know it is working and ready. Then, you can
lie back on your bed, or armchair, close your
eyes, and 30 seconds later the carbon dioxide
will begin to flow. (Anthony Dunne and
Fiona Raby, 2009)
A regular event in my family life is the argu-
ment over the control of the TV remote and the
Figure 6. Tom O’Brien, Afterlife product—remote control Mk.1 Spitfire.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
programmes that we will collectively watch.
There is a complex process of negotiation
that involves give and take, selfishness and
selflessness. I would like to be memorialized
in an evocation of this process, not least
because I want to be remembered in relation
to mundane technology (one of my academic
specialisms), as a typically contradictory
human being, and as a loving partner and
father who was intent in bettering his family
(my preferred genre was nature documen-
taries) while being chronically silly.
I would like my Afterlife battery to power a
small speaker mechanism (much like the sort
you find in a singing birthday card) integrated
into a remote control. [See Figure 8.] When-
ever the TV is switched on by the remote, a
recording of my voice is played to say either:
‘It’s my turn, so I’m going to decide what
we watch’ or ‘I really don’t mind, it’s your
turn to choose.’ Given how fragile and conten-
tious everyday familial memory is, these two
phrases should appear at random. Alterna-
tively, and slightly more subtly, I’d like my
Afterlife battery to power a circuit that makes
the TV remote select very occasionally, auto-
matically and unpredictably a channel
showing a nature documentary. The channel
cannot be changed for the duration of the pro-
gramme, and the television can only be
switched off at the mains. (Mike Michaels,
My basic idea stems from the deceased
(myself) being an attention seeking and needy
individual in life, so it follows that death
should not pry his grip from the ones around
him. He must be remembered by providing a
useful battery for his loved ones, but one
Figure 8. Mike Michaels, Afterlife product—television remote
Figure 7. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Afterlife product—euthanasia machine.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
battery isn’t enough. To be remembered only
twice more—when the battery is installed and
when the battery dies—simply will not
suffice. He wants to die many times so that
his loved ones will recall, each time, how
much they miss him.
The deceased requests that a series of cells
are manufactured [see Figure 9], each with a
random volume of electrolyte, so that the
user of the cell never knows how long it will
last. One may last a month, another a year.
The deceased then, in death, continues to get
the attention they so desired in life.
The exact devices in which the cells are to be
used are not specified by the deceased.
Though, he does request they be used in
devices that are used by his loved ones to
perform banal but vital tasks in their lives.
(e.g. hearing aid, pacemaker, bike lights,
garage-door opener, etc.) (Matt Karau, 2009)
The installation in Lisbon focused on the
fifteen proposed Afterlife battery applications
and the short narratives supporting the objects.
This introduced an emotional and personal
content that the project had previously lacked,
encouraging the audience to reflect on how they
themselves might use the battery. This manage-
ment of the uncanny allowed the project to genu-
inely engage the audience whilst at the same
time limiting the negative emotions normally
associated with such themes.
4.3 Verisimilitude: design fiction or design
As mentioned above, the term speculation can take
the viewer too far away from the here and now,
making the proposed design concept seem unreal
or far-fetched. The problem lies in the range of
possibility for a fiction—from simply impossible
to bordering on reality. The speculative tag
makes sense in the context of this article and the
design research community where methods,
motivations, values and audiences are a key
factor. Here the fictional status of the designed
concepts is an aspect of discussion. But in the
domains where these fictions ply their wares and
meet their audiences, it is preferable for the
concept to pass as real, described better perhaps
as design factions: a form of verisimilitude
Figure 9. Matt Karau, Afterlife product—batteries.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
where truths are blurred and disbelief is sus-
pended. Thinking again about The War of the
Worlds, I remembered Orson Welles’s famous
radio play of 1938 that created widespread panic
in certain US towns due to its realistic delivery.
Looking more closely into why this particular
broadcast was so successful in bringing fiction to
life, it became apparent that it was not down to
one single factor but several disparate timely
elements: the prevailing political and cultural
atmosphere (coming war in Europe; Munich
Crisis of September 12 30); the product used
for the dissemination and its contemporary rel-
evance (the radio); the language and style of the
broadcast (based on previous disaster broadcasts
such as the crash of the airship Hindenburg); and
the shift in setting from England to very specific
real places in the United States (where the play
was broadcast).
The techniques employed by Welles bear many
similarities to those used in the creation of a con-
vincing speculative design project: the crafting
of complex narrative or artifice using the real life
ecology where the fictitious concept is to be
applied and taking advantage of contemporary
media, familiar settings and complex human
desires or fears.
It is these real-life delivery methods that differ-
entiate speculative designs from many of their
cousins in science fiction. We predominantly
experience science fiction through film, television,
literature or comics, and as such consciously and
willingly enter into the fiction as soon as the
curtain rises or the book is opened. Reality is tem-
porarily suspended until the end credits roll and
normal life clicks back into place. Speculative
designs, however, are played out in real life. The
presence of the designed artefact in popular
culture allows for the viewer to project its presence
into his or her own life. Then they effectively
become the protagonist in the story, playing out
individual and informative roles. Their reactions
become the true products of this form of design
This blending of truth and reality was used in our
first speculative design project, Audio Tooth
Implant (Auger–Loizeau, 2001). Our original
project brief was to examine the implications of
implantable technology for human enhancement
purposes through proposing possible applications
and access points for technology to enter the body.
The resultant product was an implantable telephone.
The concept of implantable technology for
enhancement purposes immediately conjures
images from science fiction,
it was important
from the outset that we steered the proposal
away from these more profound representations
towards the public audience’s understanding of
three factors. First, the perceived lifestyle benefit
of having an implant: by observing the technologi-
cal habitat to observe the cultural phenomenon of
the mobile telephone, which at the time (2001)
was revolutionising human communication, we
aimed to deliver a concept that would play to con-
temporary aspirations.
Second, the psychological issues related to an
alien object entering the body (managing the
uncanny); we consciously chose the tooth as an
entry point for the implant as this is the least inva-
sive surgery available, creating a tangible balance
between cost and benefit.
And third, for technological believability, the
Audio Tooth Implant relies on a general public
awareness of hard and well-publicised facts such
as the miniaturisation of digital technology and
urban myths such as dental fillings acting as radio
antenna and picking up audio signals. These
combine to give the concept a familiarity. It was
also necessary to provide a convincing description,
in layman’s terms, of the technology involved. With
the tooth implant we were assisted in this by
approaching research scientists at a large telecom-
munications company, who offered the following:
The moisture in the cheeks effectively make the
inside of the mouth a faraday cage: a radio
free space. Therefore the chip would have to
receive low-frequency radio in the order of
150kHz. This signal would energize the
dormant chip implanted in the tooth through
near field magnetic effects. A transducer trans-
forms this sound information into micro
vibrations which through the process of bone
transduction are transmitted along the
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
jawbone and directly into the cochlea where
they are experienced by the wearer as normal
This description helped in convincing those with a
good understanding of electronic technology. To
communicate the concept we created a clear
epoxy resin model tooth with embedded computer
chip (see Figure 10). This model was photo-
graphed in a studio and used to accompany the
related text description of the concept.
With this material we presented the project at the
Science Museum in London in an exhibition
called Future Products. From here it quickly
entered the public domain through both the
popular press and specialist media. Our initial
goal was to disseminate the project as broadly as
possible, from the contemporary technology
magazine, Wired to The Sun newspaper with its
average daily readership of 7,733,000 people.
By consciously avoiding the formal academic
language normally associated with technological
research and critique to adopt a familiar product
design language we aimed to appeal to a more
general audience. Using the press allowed the
concept to disseminate globally, working particu-
larly well with new media such as Internet news
sites and blogs. A possible problem with this
approach is that it allows for little control once a
project is in the public domain and concepts can
quickly mutate as facts become embellished. With
projects like the Audio Tooth Implant this is not
problematic, as the core proposal is simple
enough for the key message to not get lost in trans-
lation. We assumed that due to the extremely large
numbers of individuals reached,
would be induced into contemplating a subject
they had not consciously considered before. One
of the key advantages of speculative design is that
there is no intention to bring the product to
market, this means that critical responses such as
the one below are of equal value to positive articles:
Dear Mr’s Auger and Loizeau,
As a physician I believe the technology you
describe in your press release, has the potential
for producing immense social harm. This social
harm would include psychological trauma, and
angry behaviour in both the workplace and the
Figure 10. Auger–Loizeau (2001), Audio Tooth Implant.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
Associate Professor of Medicine,
Stanford Medical School.
Subject: Re: implant retained crown test
Date: Sunday 16 February 2003 23:46
To: James Auger , .
Mr Auger,
Thank you for your prompt reply. Since I am a
dentist and my husband’s crown is implant
retained not on tooth structure, We would be
happy to be included in the test phase. I could
make sure the crown was placed in a temporary
mode and it could easily be removed for further
Please let me know if you are interested in this test.
Date: 17 October 2002 14:57:54 BST
To: “‘’” , .
Subject: Audio Tooth Implant
4.4 Observational comedy: rooting the
speculation in the familiar
Presenting design proposals based on little under-
stood (by the popular audience) emerging technol-
ogies is a complex challenge. Too much up front
technical information can alienate or simply bore
the viewer, but too little can leave the concept
intangible or whimsical. The problem lies in the
amount or complexity of knowledge that needs
to be communicated before a project can be under-
stood. In their analysis on the evolutionary reasons
for humour and laughter, Hurley, Dennett, and
Adams (2011, 164) describe the comedian’s sol-
ution to a similar issue suggesting that ‘shared
stories are excellent data-compression devi-
ces...The more of a story you can tell with a few
words, the more efficient your joke or witticism
will be’. Watching a recent performance by Sean
Lock on the television comedy programme ‘Live
at the Apollo’, I began contemplating the simi-
larities between observational comedy and the
Figure 11. The Sun newspaper (29 June 2002, 25); average daily readership 7,733,000 people. In the UK the Tooth Implant was also
featured in The Mirror,The Express and The Daily Star.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
Figure 12. Wire d initially featured the concept in an article by Lakshmi Sandhana dated 21 June 2002. They followed up severalyears
later (March 2006) with an article entitled: ‘Lying through their teeth’ by Rachel Metz.
Figure 13. Sky News (2002) featured the Audio Tooth Implant at the launch of the talking points exhibition at the Science Museum in
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
tactics of speculative design. During the set he
described the filthy state of the back seat of his
car, boxes of organic raisins and the raising of
small children. Here there are several relevant
points. First, observations are of mundane but
familiar aspects of daily life. This type of
comedy is popular because the audience can per-
sonally relate to the situations described.
Second, observations are often specific to a
particular time, place and person. Lock’s analysis
wouldn’t have worked ten years ago, as these par-
ticular boxes of raisins didn’t exist then. Also, to
fully understand the observations and therefore
the humour, the audience needed to be a parent
of children between the ages of two and eight
from a certain social class and culture.
Third, the importance of attention to detail;
Lock meticulously describes how his children
open the box of raisins and then shake the box
in a very particular way, scattering them all
over the car and down the small cracks between
the seats. As he describes this, a picture forms
in my mind of my own children doing the
exact same thing. This is a very familiar scene
but one to which I hadn’t previously given con-
scious thought to.
Fourth, once the familiar short story has been
told, the foundations are laid for wilder more
extreme anecdotes; these demonstrate the
humour in the situation. In Lock’s set he concludes
by describing seagulls following his car as he
drove past landfill sites and foxes retching as
they walked past the open car door.
By utilising the mundane, the familiar and
small, unnoticed details the designer can provide
spectacular, even preposterous, proposals with a
tangible link to our contemporary sensibilities
and understanding. It roots them in known con-
texts limiting the need for complex explanations.
The spectacular narratives that stem from the
comedian’s initial observations effectively rep-
resent the designer’s technological future, made
palatable through familiar elements.
In his project ‘Sensual Interfaces,’ Chris
Woebken applies hypothetical advances in nano-
technology to explore new ways of interacting
Figure 14. (2002) “My mouth is ringing: Inventors create ‘telephone tooth’.” No longer available online. CNN ran a poll
asking the audience is they would want a telephone implanted in their tooth. Over fifty-four thousandvotes were cast in a forty-eight-
hour period.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
with a computer. In his video scenario (see Figure
16), we see a familiar office scene: an Anglepoise
lamp; a desk; a nondescript computer screen; a
suited man; and a mug. The unusual element is
the form of interaction, the keyboard is no longer
present, but in its place is a large pile of seeds.
Figure 15. Time magazine, November 2002. The Audio Tooth Implant was listed on Time magazine’s list of the coolest inventions of
2002, and was used as their cover image for this feature. The only dialogue we had with the magazine was their request to use the
tooth image; there were no questions about the state or nature of the project.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
The businessman sits at the table, and through a
series of choreographed and considered move-
ments sifts, moves and sorts the seeds. This
sounds bizarre and nonsensical when described
in words, but partially through the familiar
elements and partially the choreography, it works
in portraying a tangible and engaging new mode
of interaction. Its power lies in the familiarity of
the scene, making the film both compelling and
Another technique based on observation is to
take advantage of stereotypical or commonly
held assumptions about a specific subject to
bypass the complex underlying technological
aspect; for example, if an observational come-
dian chose to focus on the topic of nanotechnol-
ogy he/she could start the set with the grey goo
move on to cryonics and Michael
and finish off with golf balls.
his nanotech project, ‘The Minutine Space’
(see Figure 17), Mikael Metthey follows the
familiar promise of nanotechnology to poten-
tially eradicate disease. In Metthey’s fictional
future, humans no longer suffer illness; in this
utopian world of wellness, the extreme experi-
ence of being profoundly unwell becomes rec-
Metthey’s project, like Woebken’s, requires a
basic familiarity with the subject matter for the
extrapolation to work. To those with an interest
in emerging technology, the familiar promise of
a zero-disease society made possible through
developments in nanotechnology is blended with
the contemporary popularity of extreme sports to
create a proposal that, whilst extremely odd,
makes sense.
By observing and taking advantage of
mundane, subtle, quirky but ultimately familiar
behaviours or perceptions, the speculative
designer can take the viewer on a journey to a tech-
nological future or alternate present that, whilst
potentially alien, makes perceptual sense.
Figure 16. Chris Woebken (2007), Sensual Interfaces (video). Available at (accessed 23
August 2010). Using seeds to simulate smart dust, this video visualises new interactions such as breaking, sharing, throwing away
and mining data. These new interactions not only generate new behaviours but will also define new relationships with products.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
4.5 Alternative presents: counterfactual
and alternate histories
Returning to the idea of the ecological approach
discussed in Section 4.1, by conflicting with
rather than embracing engrained systems and
established modes of behaviour, ‘alternative pre-
sents’ always display an inherent oddness that
can be difficult to present.
Alternative presents are intended to question
and critique contemporary use of technology in
domestic and everyday habitats, so some conflict
is helpful in capturing attention. However, for
the proposal to have a less visceral impact, it
is necessary for the audience to see beyond its
conceptual oddness and understand the logic
behind it. In literature, imaginaries based on a
poignant counterfactual history can offer
thought-provoking insights and perspectives on
contemporary life:
It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once
again. The few Jews who still survive hide
under assumed names. In San Francisco the I
Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All
because some 20 years earlier the United
States lost a war and is now occupied jointly
by Nazi Germany and Japan. (Dick 1992)
The Man in the High Castle describes the conse-
quences of one of the popular starting points for
counterfactual histories, Germany winning World
War II. From the writer’s perspective, this theme
offers a rich source of potential for re-imagining
how the world might have evolved under these
alternative circumstances. The speculative
Figure 17. Mikael Metthey (2006), The Minutine Space. Available at (accessed 19 September 2011).
People can visit a space where they get infected by engineered organisms designed to provoke the physical and psychological
reactions associated with sicknesses. The space is designed to emphasise the social aspect of sicknesses. It is composed of a viral area
where the viruses can be chosen, facilities to rest and suffer relatively comfortably and a ‘central sick pit’ where people who need to
be sick can vomit. The visitor, once they have had enough, can leave through the ‘minutine’ zone where all harming organisms are
removed by the nano-antidotes.
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
designer can borrow directly from the historiogra-
phical method: by choosing specific events that
shaped the course of today’s technological pro-
ducts and re-imagining them, it is possible to
create a very poignant alternative present. One
example of this approach is Sascha Pohflepp’s
project, ‘The Golden Institute’, based on an ima-
gined different outcome to the 1980 United
States general election that would have enabled
the perpetuation of energy-friendly initiatives
undertaken during the term of Jimmy Carter (see
Figures 18 and 19). As Pohflepp points out, ‘Posi-
tioned at the right spot in the past, such counterfac-
tual histories might offer an understanding of the
forces at work as well as a fresh perspective on
our present challenges.’
The strength of such a project comes from choos-
ing a poignant historical moment on which to
initiate the fiction: by choosing a topical and
well-understood issue or theme in contemporary
everyday life and finding a relevant or connected
historical moment that could have a perceptible
connection, the designer can develop a series of
imaginary outcomes that instigate reflection on
our current situation. In Pohflepp’s case, the poten-
tial peak oil crisis and related energy issues that we
face today make the 1980 election and its conse-
quential closing down of energy-friendly initiat-
ives a particularly poignant choice.
Taking a more aesthetic approach to an alternate
present is James Chambers’s project, ‘Attenbor-
ough Design Group’ (ADG). Here he postulates
the existence of a research group within the elec-
tronics company Texas Instruments, led by the
famous natural historian, cultural icon and lm-
maker, David Attenborough. The objects devel-
oped by the group, whilst based on orthodox and
existing products, were given new behavioural
rules, exhibiting an underlying survival instinct
inspired by complex evolved techniques in the
animal kingdom. These new product behaviours
act to enhance the chances of both physical survival
through the inbuilt defence mechanisms and
emotive survival through eliciting a deeper relation-
ship with the owner. This latter element was
achieved through an iterative behavioural prototyp-
ing, specifically an anthropomorphising of the
various movements to elicit either sympathy (the
Gesundheit Radio and Floppy Legs, see Figures
20 and 21) or wariness (Anti-Touch Lamp).
Figure 18. Sascha Pohflepp (2010), The Golden Institute Model (1:19) of a Nevada desert Lightning Harvester based on a Chevrolet
El Camino. Available at (accessed 10 March 2011).
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
Chambers’s project shifts the subject of the
alternate history from socio/political events to a
subject more relevant to the design industry, exam-
ining notions of object obsolescence, value and
This specific technique offers the designer a
rich narrative potential for re-imagining and criti-
quing technological developments and contem-
porary products. As the two examples above
show, the themes of the fiction can be extremely
broad, from large-scale political events to the
existence of a small imaginative research studio.
As with all of the methods described above, the
success of the project in engaging an audience
lies in the small details: James Chambers’s
choice of David Attenborough as head of his
research studio, for example, not only captures
the attention of several generations of UK televi-
sion watchers due to his unique social standing,
but also presents a captivating logic to the behav-
iour of the prototypes, in turn justifying the
benefits of the fictitious studio’s approach.
Sascha Pohflepp’s project takes as its starting
point a subject close to the heart of any relatively
political individual living in a democratic
society: an election and the potential consequences
of a poor decision.
4.6 Domesticating technology: literally
In his book, The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
describes the power of the tulip in seventeenth-
century Holland; in his words the tulip
‘unleashed a brief, collective madness that
shook a whole nation and nearly brought its
economy to ruin’ (Pollan 2002, 69). He describes
Dutch growers borrowing techniques from alche-
mists, sprinkling pigeon droppings, plaster dust
and paint powders onto flowerbeds in the hope
of growing the perfect specimen. Later, the
invention of the microscope unlocked secrets
and growers learnt that the ‘perfect specimen’
was in fact the result of a virus, and as a conse-
quence tulip development took a new direction.
Today, advances in genetic engineering are prom-
ising to deliver flowers that do not wilt and frost-
resistant geraniums.
In his speculative future project, ‘Acoustic
Botany’, David Benque
´builds on this
ongoing human endeavour, specifically the
fascination with the flower, to take us on a
Figure 19. Sascha Pohflepp (2010), The Golden Institute Model (1:500) of an induction loop-equipped Chuck’s Cafe, Interstate 5 near
Bakersfield, CA. Available at (accessed 10 March 2011).
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
spectacular voyage to a garden of the future
(see Figures 2224).
To advance the process of domestication
beyond contemporary techniques he applies the
emerging science of synthetic biology to propose
a genetically engineered sound garden. This effec-
tively represents a coming together of two art
forms that have captivated human minds for
Figure 21. James Chambers (2010), Attenborough Design Group—Floppy Legs. Available at
(accessed 10 March 2011). The portable floppy disk drive which stands up if it detects liquid nearby, and the Anti-Touch Lamp, which
sways away if you get too close to its halogen bulb.
Figure 20. James Chambers (2010), Attenborough Design Group—Gesundheit Radio. Available at
uk/ (accessed 10 March 2011). An internal mechanism triggers a sporadic anthropomorphised sneezing behaviour, developed to
protect early fragile microprocessors from dust.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
centuries. The simple logic behind this method
means that the complex language and science
behind synthetic biology are translated into the
results of its hypothetical practice: spectacular
gardens, plants and creatures that combine to
offer delightful new aesthetic experiences.
The method of using domestication to inform
speculative futures limits the potential subjects to
those organisms capable of being domesticated
and to the sciences capable of manipulating their
genetic development; however, the potential to
cater to complex human desires and sensibilities
is extremely powerful due to our long history of
artificial selection to shape nature, as Michael
Pollan describes in his introduction to ‘Botany of
The big thing the dog knows about—the
subject it has mastered in the ten thousand
years it has been evolving at our side—is us:
our needs and desires, our emotions and
values, all of which it has folded into its
genes as part of a sophisticated strategy for
survival. If you could read the genome of the
dog like a book, you would learn a great deal
of who we are and what makes us tick.
(Pollan 2002, xv)
I have described above some of the methods and
techniques currently being used for practising
speculative design. Every speculative design
project is unique and the diversity of possible sub-
jects, contexts, technologies, perspectives and
audiences make a definitive ‘how to’ guide
impossible. Complicating the situation further is
the fact that new techniques are continually
being developed and old methods are becoming
more sophisticated as the practice matures. The
examples described are therefore intended to
present a more general attitude or approach
towards the subject of speculation, specifically
how it must be managed and crafted to connect
Figure 22. David Benque
´(2010), Acoustic Botany: Genetically Engineered Sound Garden. Available at http://www.davidbenque.
com/projects/acoustic-botany (accessed 10 March 2011).
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
to a specific audience’s perception of the temporal
world around them. Once established these per-
ceptions can be stretched or manipulated in
precise and informed ways. These exist as plaus-
ible, tangible and accessible demonstrations, or
more specifically hypothetical translations of dis-
ruptive technological innovations into the future
products they could become. The key benefit of
this approach is the removal of the commercial
constraints that normally direct the creative
This decoupling allows for the goals
to be based on questions and discourse rather
than market-led agendas; hypothetical possibili-
ties not real products; utopian concepts and dysto-
pian counter-products. They can inspire an
audience to think not only about what they do
want for their future selves but also what they do
not want.
Critical design uses designed artefacts as an
embodied critique or commentary on consumer
culture. Both the designed artefact (and subsequent
use) and the process of designing such an artefact
cause reflection on existing values, mores and
practices in a culture.
Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to
challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and
givens about the role products play in everyday
life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a
position rather than a method. There are many
people doing this who have never heard of the
term critical design and who have their own way
of describing what they do. Naming it Critical
Design is simply a useful way of making this
activity more visible and subject to discussion and
debate. Its opposite is affirmative design: design
that reinforces the status quo. (Dunne and Raby,
Figure 23. David Benque
´(2010), Acoustic Botany: Singing
Flower. Available at
acoustic-botany (accessed 10 March 2011). Because the para-
site diverts the plant’s energy for its own purposes, only small
flowers manage to grow.
Figure 24. David Benque
´(2010), Acoustic Botany: String nut
and Bugs. Available at
acoustic-botany (accessed 10 March 2011). String-nut and bugs
engineered to chew in rhythm.
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
Discursive Design refers to the creation of utilitarian
objects whose primary purpose is to communicate
ideas—they encourage discourse. These are tools
for thinking; they raise awareness and perhaps
understanding of substantive and often debatable
issues of psychological, sociological, and
ideological consequence. (Tharp and Tharp 2009)
‘Philips Design Probes is a dedicated ‘far-future’
research initiative to track trends and developments
that may ultimately evolve into mainstream issues
that have a significant impact on business.
The probes generate insights from research in five
main areas; politics; economic; culture;
environments; and technology futures.
With the aim of understanding ‘lifestyle’ post-2020,
the programme aims to identify probable systemic
shifts in the social and economic domains likely to
affect our business and create intellectual property
in new areas. It challenges conventional ways of
thinking to come up with concepts to stimulate
debate. Deliverables range from scenarios and
narratives to the creation of experience prototypes
and IP fortressing.’ (Philips n.d)
‘The deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend
disbelief about change. That’s the best definition
we’ve come up with. The important word there
is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously
about potential objects and services and trying to
get people to concentrate on those rather than
entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical
strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of
design. It tells worlds rather than stories.’ (Bosch
Whilst these speculations might become feasible in
the technological sense, they ignore the more
intangible but nevertheless crucial reality of
everyday life, such as insurance, licensing, legal
liability, traffic control, resource issues, effect on
urban planning, etc.
For an excellent essay on the practice of
counterfactual histories, see Bunzl (2004).
For a thorough description of Alternate history, see
Schmunk (n.d.).
Some of the techniques are specific to either
speculative futures or alternative presents, some
work for both practices.
A comparison could be drawn here with approaches
in literature; for example, in Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein (1818/1992) the scientific research of
Luigi Galvani was used to inform the methods of
Dr Frankenstein in giving life to the monster. This
gave the novel a contemporary validity and
This notion borrows heavily from James J. Gibson’s
influential book The Ecological Approach to Visual
Perception. Here Gibson stresses the value of
moving out of the laboratory with regard to the
study of natural vision and into the environment—
the surroundings of those organisms that perceive
and behave (Gibson 1986, 7).
Wells had a first-class honours degree in biology
from the Normal School of Science in London.
Leon Festinger coined the term in his 1957 book, A
Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. He described the
experience as ‘the feeling of psychological
discomfort produced by the combined presence of
two thoughts that do not follow from one another.
Festinger proposed that the greater the discomfort,
the greater the desire to reduce the dissonance of
the two cognitive elements (Harmon-Jones and
Mills 1999).
A device that uses an electrochemical reaction to
generate electricity from organic matter.
One visitor was lingering for some time at one of the
proposals. I walked over to speak to her; she turned
to me with tears running down a red face. She told
me that in life, her father behaved in exactly the
same way as the father described in one of the texts
and related perfectly to the proposed function of
his specific afterlife battery.
See for example, Bruce Sterling’s, Schismatrix Plus
and William Gibson’s, Neuromancer.
Around the same period Kevin Warwick of Reading
University was generating publicity for his Cyborg
1.0 project. Exploring similar issues, Warwick had
an RFID tag implanted in his arm enabling him to
automatically unlock his office door and turn on
lights. The question we ask is would one be willing
to experience invasive surgery on a body part for
such basic added functionality. See http://www.
It is impossible to state exactly how many
individuals have been exposed to the concept;
however, it has been featured in news reports and
magazines in Australia, Canada and Brazil. We
have been interviewed on radio shows in the
United States, the UK and New Zealand, and have
received emails and letters from global locations.
Slashdot, the technology-related new website,
featured the concept, and at last viewing there were
437 comments (see
fhfilter=tooth+implant, accessed 16 November
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
The whole correspondence ran to two pages of
writing offering a detailed description of exactly
how and why the Tooth Implant would cause
immense social harm.
See Prince Charles’s article in the Independent on
Sunday newspaper, 10 July 2004, describing the
history of the ‘grey goo’ myth.
Cryonics is the process of deep-freezing the human
body after death in the hope that future
technological developments will enable the repair
of damaged cells and revival of the deceased. The
technology usually prescribed for this future use is
nanotechnology. Michael Jackson famously
subscribed to cryogenics but missed the deadline
due to the need for an autopsy.
Contrary to all of the spectacular future speculations
for nanotechnology, one of the most common
contemporary applications is in the manufacture of
golf balls.
Constraints still exist, of course; without them the
design speculations could drift off into neverlands
and dreamscapes; they then entertain but their
engagement potential is nullified.
´, David. Personal website. http://www. (accessed 20 May 2012).
Bosch, Torie. 2012. “Sci-Fi Writer Bruce Sterling
Explains the Intriguing New Concept of Design
Fiction”. Slate.
Bunzl, Martin. 2004. “Counterfactual History: A User’s
Chambers, James. Personal website. http://www. (accessed 20 May 2012).
Charles, Prince. 2004. “Nanotechnology.” Independent
on Sunday.
Dick, P.K. 2011. The Man in the High Castle. New
York: First Mariner Books. Also available at http://
Dunne, T. and F. Raby. 2007. Critical Design FAQ. Per-
sonal website. Available at http://www.dunneandraby. (accessed 12 May 2012).
Festinger, Leon. 1957. ATheoryofCognitiveDisso-
nance. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Freud, Sigmund. 1990. Volume 14. Art and Literature.
London: Penguin.
Gibson, James J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to
Visual Perception. Hove: Psychology Press.
Gibson, William. 1995. Neuromancer. London: Harper
Harmon-Jones, E and J. Mills. 1999. Cognitive Disso-
nance: Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psy-
chology. Washington D.C: American Psychological
Hart, Hugo. 2008. “From Hulk to Gort, Monster Man
Gets Creative With Creatures.” Wired. http://www.
Hurley, Matthew M, Daniel C. Dennett, and Reginald
Adams Jr. 2011. Inside Jokes: Using Humor to
Reverse-Engineer the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT
Metthey, Mikael. Personal website. http://www. (accessed 4 April 2012).
Metz, Rachel. 2006. “Lying Through Their Teeth.”
Wired Magazine (online) Available at: http://www.
currentPage=all (accessed 9 July 2009).
Philips. n.d. “Design Probes.” Accessed 27 February
Poe, E.A. 2003. The Fall of the House of Usher and
Other Writings. London: Penguin Classics.
Pohflepp, Sascha. Personal website. http://pohflepp.
com/ (accessed 10 April 2012).
Pollan, Michael. 2002. The Botany of Desire. London:
Sandhana, Lakshmi. 2002. “Excuse Me, is your Tooth
Ringing?.” Wire d.
Schmunk, Robert. “Uchronia.” http://www.uchronia.
net/intro.html (accessed 10 April 2012).
Shelley, Mary. 1818/1992. Frankenstein. London:
Sterling, Bruce. 1996. Schismatrix Plus. New York: Ace
Tharp, B.M. and Stephanie M. Tharp. 2009. “The 4
Fields of Industrial Design: (No, not furniture,
trans, consumer electronics and toys).” Core 77
(online). Available at
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
asp (accessed 12 May 2012).
The Exorcist, 1973. Film. Directed by William Friedkin.
USA: Warner Bros.
The Shining, 1980. Film. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
USA: Warner Bros.
Wells,G.H. 2004. The War of the Worlds. London: Pheonix.
Woebken, Chris. Personal website. http://www. (accessed 30 March 2012).
Zeuner, E. Frederick 1963. A History of Domesticated
Animals. London: Hutchinson.
James Auger has a BA(Hons) in Product Design
from Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Design
Products from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in
London. Between 2002 and 2005 he was
employed as a Research Associate at Media Lab
Europe, where the main focus of his research
was a design-based investigation into technology-
mediated human interaction. Since 2005, James
has been teaching in Design Interactions at the
RCA and recently completed his PhD in the pro-
gramme. He is a partner in the speculative
design practice AugerLoizeau (http://www., whose projects have been
published and exhibited internationally, including:
MoMA, New York; 21_21, Tokyo; The Science
Museum, London; and the Ars Electronica festi-
val, Linz; and is in the permanent collection at
Speculative design: crafting the speculation
Digital Creativity, Vol. 24, No. 1
... The value of speculative design does not lie only in the created object (prototype, installation, or live experience), but in the discussions, contemplations, and understanding it fosters [9], as it is rooted in the work of the Italian Radical designs in the 1960s and the critical design work of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby in the late 1990s, focusing on the exploration and critique of ideas, rather than the creation of objects [1,6,11,19]. Speculative design offers a way to conceive the world in which products exist, as much as the product itself. ...
... Speculative design allows us to explore the complexities of our current world and its potential futures [1,4,6,12]. This approach is particularly useful in the context of urban design, where the interplay of various social, economic, and environmental factors creates a complex web of potential outcomes. ...
... This activity draws its inspiration from speculative design's concept of "crafting speculation", which involves the creation of tangible artifacts or narratives that embody speculative concepts [1,4,11]. Participants will be introduced to design methods and tools to assist with visualizing their scenarios as well as a fictional city worldbuilding sheet so as to develop comprehensive urban visions. ...
... Dunne and Raby (2013) describe speculative design practice as "world-building", prompting speculation in the designers' mind to challenge how people think about everyday life. Popularly discussed methods of speculative design approaches are: Design fiction-design to tell stories about the near future (Bleecker, 2009) (Tharp & Tharp, 2009); and Design probes-using scenarios and narratives to generate insights from research and stimulate debate (Auger, 2013). These methods enable designers to speculate futures by analyzing and critiquing the current ecosystem: contemporary technologies, products, services, and systems. ...
... It utilizes methods such as 'storytelling' to generate awareness and inquire about concerns and constraints to understand the impact of emerging products and services of tomorrow (Pasman, 2016;Bleecker, 2009). In comparison to other speculative design methods such as critical or discursive design, the use of prototypes or artifacts help the audience concentrate on services and experiences rather than entire worlds or political trends, or geopolitical strategies (Auger, 2013;Bosch, 2012). Hence, the use of the design fiction approach is preferable to service design researchers to speculate about future services and experiences. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employees’ lifestyles as well as organizational service experiences. Disrupted service experiences have led to changes in employee well-being, behavior, and responses, disrupting existing organizational structures and leading to diminished effectiveness of workplace and workforce management. Employee satisfaction at work has become more crucial post-pandemic for retaining employees in the organization. To thrive in the postpandemic situation, offering improved flexibility and adaptability in the employee lifecycle will enable employees to respond and recover faster and better. In this paper, we analyse the employee service experience problems and disruptive scenarios that have occurred due to the pandemic. We propose a Rapid Service Design (RSD) approach to mitigate gradually unfolding challenges, accelerate the service design process cycle time, and creatively and iteratively respond to service continuity in pandemic-like disruptions.
... The integration of design comes mainly in the range of design approaches that can broadly be considered as kinds of Speculative Design (e.g., including Critical Design, Design Fiction, Discursive Design, etc.) since this work uses designerly means to express foresight in compelling and provocative ways that engage audiences in considering possibilities (DiSalvo, 2012, p.109). Therefore, Speculative Design mentioned in this study is referred a futures-oriented, critical, and discursive practice that provokes new ways of thinking and problematizes ideas or issues into focus by envisioning or crafting imagination and visions of possible future scenarios (Auger, 2013;Dunne & Raby, 2013;Mitrović, 2015). The goal of this long-term and critical design approach is to critically question what kind of future actors want to achieve with the help of their services (systems). ...
... The goal of this long-term and critical design approach is to critically question what kind of future actors want to achieve with the help of their services (systems). In this case, "realizability" is no longer essential, and the purpose is not about predicting the future; it is important to go beyond the "plausible future" and to reveal and examine the possibilities of "possible futures" in order to back cast, reflect on and discuss unforeseen opportunities and risks (Auger, 2013;Dunne & Raby, 2013;Griffel, 2020). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The scale and process of Service Design are expanding and evolving as the emerging challenges they face become increasingly complex and uncertain. In order to cope with the systemic complexity and uncertainty of future changes when designing service (eco)systems, more holistic and speculative dimensions are needed to be considered. In the field of design, Systemic Design and Speculative Design are considered to have the capacities to deal with systemic complexity and critically consider future uncertainty. Therefore, this study aims to explore from the theoretical level to the operational level to understand if and how Systemic Design and Speculative Design can help to expand the Systemic and Speculative dimensions into Service Design. Through literature review and expert interviews, this paper presents the theoretical relationships between these three approaches and discusses the opportunities and criticalities of approach integration. In the end, we propose three future research directions and open up open questions about Service Design evolution in Systemic and Speculative dimensions.
... Lindley (2015a) tanımlardaki tutarsızlıkların nedenlerinden birinin kurgu (fiction) kelimesinin içeriği ve rolü konusundaki farklı yorumlar olduğunu söylemektedir. Kurgu kelimesi, "Teknolojiyle meşgul olmayı ima edebilir (Dunne ve Raby, 2013); söz konusu tasarımların gerçek dışı olduğu izlenimini uyandırabilir (Auger, 2013); ve tasarımcının kullandığı ortama atıfta bulunabilir (Lindley ve ark., 2014)" (aktaran Lindley, 2015a. Bunun yanında tasarım kurgusunun literatürdeki işleniş biçimlerine bakıldığında da farklı yaklaşımlar görülür. ...
... En temel ortak özellikleri ise hepsinin pazar odaklı tasarım perspektifinden ayrılmasıdır. Auger (2013), farklılıkların coğrafi veya bağlamsal kullanıma dayandığını fakat hepsinin ticari kısıtlamaları ortadan kaldırdığını ve alternatif ürünler, sistemler veya dünyalar sunmak için kurguyu kullandığını belirtmektedir. ...
... Designers have their own strategies for making use of, critiquing and appropriating new technologies (Westerlund and Wetter-Edman 2017), so there is an interest in understanding what designerly methods could reveal about human-AI relations, particularly where it involves interactions between humans and technological systems-considering the "social, political, ethical, cultural, and environmental factors of implementing AI into daily human-to-computer interactions" (Wong 2018). Design research methods, speculations (Auger 2013;Kirman et al. 2022), fictioning (Forlano and Mathew 2014;Wong et al. 2017;Troiano et al. 2021;Benjamin et al. 2023), probes and toolkits (Sanders and Stappers 2014), more than human design (Coulton and Lindley 2019) and the general practices of Research through Design (RtD) (Giaccardi 2019; Stappers and Giaccardi 2017), are all well suited to thinking into the socio-technical aspects (Holton and Boyd 2021; Sartori and Theodorou 2022; Theodorou and Dignum 2020), possibilities, and implication of AI in everyday life, just as they have been applied to understanding digital sensing technologies (Pierce 2021), blockchains , the future of automation (Cavalcante Siebert et al. 2022) and so on. ...
Full-text available
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly integrated into the functioning of physical and digital products, creating unprecedented opportunities for interaction and functionality. However, there is a challenge for designers to ideate within this creative landscape, balancing the possibilities of technology with human interactional concerns. We investigate techniques for exploring and reflecting on the interactional affordances, the unique relational possibilities, and the wider social implications of AI systems. We introduced into an interaction design course (n = 100) nine ‘AI exercises’ that draw on more than human design, responsible AI, and speculative enactment to create experiential engagements around AI interaction design. We find that exercises around metaphors and enactments make questions of training and learning, privacy and consent, autonomy and agency more tangible, and thereby help students be more reflective and responsible on how to design with AI and its complex properties in both their design process and outcomes.
... Frayling introduced the term Research through Design (RtD) in his 1993/4 article concerning the difference between art, design, and research. However, RtD has emerged as an approach in the Human-Computer Interaction field (Auger, 2013;Zimmerman et al., 2007) and design leading to the debate around its application in research. Commercial design and RtD projects both practice design but differ in their goals (Frayling, 1994). ...
Urban living is changing. Citizens explore new lifestyles in practice and envision alternative urban futures. Companies, as significant stakeholders in cities, are building urban infrastructure and serving citizens' needs. To succeed in the future, companies must be able to navigate the complexity and diversity of evolving cities. However, former corporate foresight research on cities is sparse. This participatory corporate foresight study examines city life in 2040 by engaging a group of London citizens with a lead user profile. A qualitative multimethod approach, consisting of online diaries, a futures imagining workshop, and in‐depth interviews, explores citizens' images of the future and lifestyle changes. The lifestyle adjustments experienced during the COVID‐19 pandemic period have acted as a catalyst for novel personal and communal futures. The broad range of visions included both continuity and discontinuity, with a moderately optimistic undertone, and featured communal, infrastructural, ecological, and technological aspects of life. These visions emphasized sustainability in multiple areas of life and demonstrated the dynamic relationship of the past, present, and future. The methodological contribution of this paper lies in its multimethod approach, which enabled an agile collection of textual and audio‐visual datasets in both online and face‐to‐face contexts. This agility is particularly relevant in a corporate foresight context, where companies must balance efficiency, depth, and applicability while operating under resource constraints. The article also extends the lead user approach's use from individual products and services to the city environment and urban lifestyle in general.
Full-text available
This article attempts to define and typologize the main principles for the design of Intelligent Music Performance Systems (IMPS). It presents a three-dimensional framework based on studies of proxemics combined with findings from AI design research. Each of these dimensions – embodiment, participation, and autonomy – is presented together with existing taxonomies, then integrated into an analytical framework. This framework informs the discussion of nine historical cases of IMPS from the 1950s to the present, to gain a refined understanding of their interactive design. The discussion leads back to three main tendencies in IMPS design – instruments, systems, and agents – and the article concludes by combining the proposed framework with ideas from Speculative Design Research.
Full-text available
0ver 40 years after the publication of Leon Festinger's (1957) book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, research on the theory is receiving renewed attention, and revisions to the original theory have been proposed. Consequently, the editors felt that an assessment of the current status of the theory would be of value and that there was a need for a book to present and discuss the theoretical controversies and the recent research on important questions about the dissonance process. For this book, we are fortunate to have contributions from the prominent scientists who have made major contributions to research and theory on cognitive dissonance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Vyd. 1. Přeloženo z angličtiny