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The Futures of Everyday Life: Politics and the Design of Experiential Scenarios



The great existential challenges facing the human species can be traced, in part, to the fact that we have underdeveloped discursive practices for thinking possible worlds ‘out loud’, performatively and materially, in the register of experience. That needs to change. In this dissertation, a methodology for ‘experiential scenarios’, covering a range of interventions and media from immersive performance to stand-alone ‘artifacts from the future’, is offered as a partial corrective. The beginnings of aesthetic, political and ethical frameworks for ‘experiential futures’ are proposed, drawing on alternative futures methodology, the emerging anti- mediumist practice of ‘experience design’, and the theoretical perspective of a Rancièrian ‘politics of aesthetics’. The relationships between these three domains -- futures, design, and politics -- are explored to show how and why they are coming together, and what each has to offer the others. The upshot is that our apparent binary choice between unthinkable dystopia and unimaginable utopia is a false dilemma, because in fact, we can and should imagine ‘possibility space’ hyperdimensionally, and seek to flesh out worlds hitherto supposed unimaginable or unthinkable on a daily basis. Developed from early deployments across a range of settings in everyday life, from urban guerrilla-style activism to corporate consulting, experiential scenarios do not offer definitive answers as to how the future will look, or even how it should look, but they can contribute to a mental ecology within which these questions may be posed and discussed more effectively than ever before.
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... Experiential Futures is connected to speculative design but connects theories and methods from Futures Studies to the worldbuilding skills of design to create tangible and experienceable depictions of future possibilities. Through these material experiences, often 'artefacts from the future,' designers offer communities a more embodied understanding of what the future may hold (Candy 2010;Candy & Dunagan 2017). Christina Harrington, Shamika Klassen and Yolanda A. Rankin (2022) describe the potential of embracing the way that speculative thinking challenges the status quo, and they often work with communities to practise utopian designing. ...
... Els futurs experiencials estan connectats amb el disseny especulatiu, però associen teories i mètodes d'estudis de futurs amb les habilitats de creació del món pròpies del disseny per crear representacions tangibles i experiencials de possibilitats de futur. Mitjançant aquestes experiències materials, sovint artefactes del futur, els dissenyadors ofereixen a les comunitats un coneixement integral del que podria acollir el futur (Candy 2010;Candy i Dunagan 2017). ). ...
... Los futuros experienciales están conectados con el diseño especulativo, pero asocian teorías y métodos de estudios de futuros con las habilidades de creación del mundo propias del diseño para crear representaciones tangibles y experienciales de posibilidades de futuro. A través de estas experiencias materiales, a menudo "artefactos del futuro", los diseñadores ofrecen a las comunidades un conocimiento integral de lo que podría albergar el futuro (Candy 2010;Candy y Dunagan 2017). ). ...
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Racial justice activists tend to turn to science fiction to imagine better, freer worlds. Speculative futures in design are rarely fantasy-based. Design speculation relies more on unfamiliarity and exaggeration than fantasy to challenge assumptions and norms. This paper proposes that design, futuring, and utopian thinking can offer a new path to justice movements, and a new purpose for speculative design, to envision optimistic long-term possibilities based on realism. Designers, with their unique ability to ‘change existing situations into preferred ones,’ can build realistic and plausible visions of equitable, liberatory worlds. Such visions that amplify the missions of justice efforts can help enlist new supporters and motivate advocates through complex, disruptive change. This article describes eight workshops structured to explore the value of imagining radically hopeful visions co-created through critically conscious collaborative futures. In each workshop, designers acted as facilitators to help foster solution-finding with participants from various racial justice projects in both community and academic organisations. Workshops introduced participants to the joy and strength of thinking about long-term futures. Still, their visions often did not last beyond the workshop. Only in later workshops, when design prompts provided new formats for evoking participants’ futures, did their visions become tangible and long-lasting. The results show that designers’ creative skills can complement and give shape to the deep knowledge of justice advocates.
... The experiential approach stems from the inclusion of the ideas, methods and influences from art, design and film into futures practice (Candy, 2010;Dunne & Raby, 2013;Kelliher & Byrne, 2015). The futures field generally welcomes inspiration from diverse fields and the incorporation of primarily design approaches and methods into futures provided new means to express and create ideas about alternative futures in a participatory manner and overcome issues, such as the tangibility of futures images, experienced by futurists over the history of the field (Kelliher & Byrne, 2015). ...
... The futures field generally welcomes inspiration from diverse fields and the incorporation of primarily design approaches and methods into futures provided new means to express and create ideas about alternative futures in a participatory manner and overcome issues, such as the tangibility of futures images, experienced by futurists over the history of the field (Kelliher & Byrne, 2015). Interest, use and acceptance of experiential futures has grown over the past decade since the official introduction of the term "experiential futures" and with it, the incorporation of design methods to futures, which are both generally attributed to Candy (Candy, 2010;Kelliher & Byrne, 2015). ...
... In the past decade, futures research has adopted some of the methods from the UCD toolbox, which led to development of experiential futures (Kelliher & Byrne, 2015). The idea of immersing participants in a futures experience is a core element of experiential futures and specifically builds upon concepts from experience design, which evolved from UCD, and ideas of cocreation from participatory futures (Candy, 2010 For EF 05, the combination of design and futures is necessary to create or design future realities or parts of them. Design is a means to create objects or experiences with a specific purpose and the design mindset and tools have been made available to other fields through the popularisation of the "design thinking" concept (Kelley & Littman, 2004). ...
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There is a growing amount of literature on the importance and role of communication in almost all aspects of daily life. The establishment of specialist sub-fields such as science communication, innovation communication and climate change communication are evidence of this. Due to the lack of literature on communication within the area of futures studies (also referred to as futures research), this study explores how communication is explained and understood by futurists in their field. To support a general understanding of communication and contextualise the research, the study also examines the communication theory literature, which has been largely ignored by the developers of specialist communication sub-fields. This research uses a social constructionist paradigm and implements a holistic multiple-case design case study with two groups of futures practitioners. One group is embedded within an organisation and therefore considered homogenous. The second group consists of professional futurists from around the world and is considered heterogeneous. Data is collected through semi-structured interviews and analysed through a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis.
... Core elements of speculative design include the materialization of particular future worlds through film, theatre, radio, imagery, scenarios, exhibitions, installations and artefacts (Bendor et al. 2017;Briggs et al. 2012;Blythe et al. 2015;Wakkary et al. 2015;Candy and Dunagan 2017;Elsden et al. 2017;Dolejsova 2018;Baumann et al. 2017). As a multifaceted future-oriented approach, methods can extend expansive visions of multiple possible near and far futures, provoking fears and desires alongside embodied and visceral future visions that can disrupt perceptions of everyday realities (Candy 2010). These evocative representations can further encourage political discussion across established and emerging publics on the often ill-conceived consequences of technology use in broader society, through experiential presentation formats. ...
... Participatory approaches in speculation (Lyckvi et al. 2018;Light 2015) are also gaining traction to look at the co-creation of futures, creating instances that allow for momentary imaginative events (Halewood 2017) for people to imagine together. Here, speculation is conceived of as quite literally grounded in the everyday experiential and material realities of people's lives (Candy 2010), but offering potential in creating experiments in new perspectives and individual and collective transformations (Marres 2017). Halewood reconceptualizes speculation as a situated and imaginative practice, modestly changing what is perceived to be possible in their lived and felt worlds (Halewood 2017). ...
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We report on community food growing as an instance of practice-based sustainability research focused on the design of interactive systems for food growing in future cities. We present a case study with a series of workshops using speculative and participatory design approaches focused on creatively exploring futures of urban food growing with a local neighbourhood community. Working with local grassroots communities is often perceived as more egalitarian for promoting viable long-term and embedded change in cities, yet little work has studied this approach for urban food growing. To explore how we might better articulate and conceptualize collaborative food growing futures, we discuss the creation of bottom-up visions as contestations to hegemonic narratives of power and control in cities. These are affected by, limitations of present resources and infrastructures, inability to work at scale due to lack of buy-in of stakeholders, and erroneous promises of future technologies. Through these reflections on grassroots futures as complex assemblages of social and material realities, we provoke researchers and practitioners to look at envisioning future possibilities with participants, as a web of practices and stakeholders. We further suggest that researchers and practitioners explore these interconnections through assemblages of socio-material realities and visions of high- and low-tech futures. This work is important because it provides a new approach to looking at the design of future technologies for cities and addressing systemic issues of hegemonic food systems through bottom-up actionable futures.
... Positioned within the area of design for sustainability transitions (e.g., Irwin, 2015), students were invited to envision more-than-human urban futures; alternatives that countered the humancentered city. The focus for the subject was to explore what was imaginable, possible and preferable (Candy, 2010;Hancock & Bezold, 1994). Alternative urban visions can mobilise powerful forces: shaping innovation activities where speculation can challenge and transform the linearity of the city. ...
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The city has long been regarded as the domain of humans. Residing above the physical constraints of nature, such detached and dualistic anthropocentric perceptions tend to universalize, marginalize and de-politicize the value and possible co-benefits of human/nonhuman nature connections. Recognising a need to re-conceptualise the city as a multispecies space, we analyse outcomes from an interdisciplinary Master's subject that sought to encounter, restore, protect and co-exist with more-than-human species. Students were encouraged to step beyond their disciplinary boundaries to develop innovative strategies that could reconfigure human/nonhuman relationships within the city of Trondheim, Norway. Through their work, visions of alternative, possible futures emerged. Such alternative visions can be powerful: speculation can challenge and transform the linear, dualistic understandings of the city, and shape and redirect innovation practices. This article explores students' visions of multispecies cities to consider their contribution to just and sustainable transitions literature, analysing them with respect to design for sustainability transitions, teaching transdisciplinarity and the concept of the counter city.
... As the studio's main question was orbiting how we, as designers, might address the societal issues surrounding wearable technologies, and how we can create more humane design solutions geared towards an inclusive society, one of the main methods of the studio was speculative design. Our first goal was to open conversations in the studio by speculating on 'probable, possible, and preferable futures' (Candy, 2010). ...
Conference Paper
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Wearables are constantly becoming more present in our daily lives. Paired with our smartphones and smart homes, wearable devices such as smartwatches and earpieces are aimed to support our endeavors; though at times they invade our personal lives to the point where our communication with the outside world is mostly through these products. Therefore, for our graduate industrial design studio course at Arizona State University, we have set out to design wearable technology products that take all life forms' well-being into account for the future. We benefited from trend research, design fiction, speculation, wizard of Oz techniques, and concept-knowledge mapping. Prototyping was one of the key methods used to discover how to lead the design propositions for this student project. Master of Industrial Design (MID) students at Arizona State University during Fall 2022 were asked to build-but more importantly, think-with their hands and turn their tacit knowledge and imagination into wearables that will help and care for the end-users. This paper will illustrate the design process used in the studio and how different levels of prototyping helped the MID students' "think with their hands" and how it allowed the abstract notion of designing for the future to turn into a concrete understanding of creating life-centered designs. It is important for industrial designers to physically prototype because of their constant relationship with three-dimensional space. Bringing a design into the tangible world allows the designer to touch their creation and view it in the reality it is meant to be a part of. There's a reason car companies still make full-scale clay models-even with advancements in CAD and rendering technology. Viewing the contours, ridges, and valleys of your creation in real space allows you to see potential problems that you may not have caught otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to check your work from the perspective of the end or target user. The need to design for the 'human element' is another important use of prototyping, especially the rough, early-stage models. These models are usually made to check scale, form, and feel; the shape of a handle, or other touch points can be gripped, used, and felt. Sometimes you can only ensure a product fit in a hand or on the body of a user if you make it yourself and check. This 2nd-year MID studio project was developed to be an experiment lab with multiple stages of prototyping. The prototypes completed in these stages ranged from low-fidelity mock-ups to approaching higher-fidelity prototypes. For this project, student designers were expected to design wearable objects as a brand extension for sports, fashion, and medical brands.
In the current design exploration of the future, there are two distinct categories, one is the pursuit of what will be possible, and the other is the exploration of what is possible. In order to better distinguish the characteristics and functions of them, this study tries to divide future-oriented design into affirmative design and alternative design from the different future cones explored by them.Affirmative design takes current solutions as the premise and pursues faster, better, smaller and cheaper solutions. Ostensibly, affirmative design is a pursuit of perfection, but in essence, it is a kind of patching method which may suppress designers’ innovation for the future and further restrict people’s cognition of the futures. Alternative design is a design method of shelving the reality, trying to seek other possibilities outside the status quo. Its essence is a method of seeking “others”. The difficulty lies in that designers need to get rid of the current comfort and complacency, and their works may become castles in the air.The point of this study is that we need some sort of balance: not to be trapped in a single future, and not to be trapped in an “escape from a single future”. On the basis of looking for more possible future, find a path to realize it, so that alternative design will be chosen by people and then transformed into affirmative design.KeywordsDesign futuresAffirmative designAlternative design
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