I’ve heard it said that the fundamental use of imagination is to produce a vision of a world you’d want to live in. The gap between imagining and predicting is vast enough that a better understanding of each may obtain by understanding why you would do one or the other.
To predict a future is hubris and ego as if to say, I know the final outcome of all the range of possible futures, which I cannot possibly know. So for Design Fiction, because we don’t truck in prediction, we start by stating that we are acting as a much more modest witness of possibilities in the hopes of shaping the contours of outcomes to the benefit of a more habitable near future world.
You don’t do Design Fiction to predict the future. You do Design Fiction to learn what it feels like to live in that future, along with the benefits, challenges, hesitancies, full-throated humanity, and all of those experiences that challenge the soul in tiny, unencumbering ways as well as the big, doom-and-gloom disaster spectacular existential ways.
You do Design Fiction to go to a place and take stock of things to remind yourself of what could be, including the inconvenient things that lurk just at the surface, like the unintended consequences. These things arise not as inconveniences to be ignored, but so you can bring them to the surface and thereby understand them more thoroughly than you could if you just simply pretended they didn’t exist, or wouldn’t possibly come to be.
In this way Design Fiction is a practical poetry about possible futures, creating the material and ontological furnishings that are evocative of that near future world. It reveals these near futures — their malaise and their brilliance — in the form of objects and circumstances, like symptoms of itself, of its various ailments and conditions. Design Fiction tells us what we might see, what those things we see might suggest about the world, and what it is to be in that world. Design Fiction lets us try that future on for size.
With Design Fiction we get to walk up and down the aisles of a corner store full of the clutter of bargain-basement consumer culture. We see aspirational corners of the future in spectacular displays of marketing ephemera pulling on a manufactured desire for luxury ice. With Design Fiction, we get to take notice of a that service vehicle with the loose bumper parked in front of our neighbor’s bungalow — look! it’s Ricky’s Certified Machine Tutor service van. The backyard barbeque must’ve forgotten how to grill that new batch of vat steaks again. We might see a small repair stall in a cluttered Buenos Aires mall offering NFT recovery service where the attendant behind a display case of well-worn and slightly faulty token jewelry lightly barks out offers to help you find tokens misplaced on any public or non-public blockchain, guaranteed.
The furniture of Design Fiction are the things that tell us everything we need to know about the impositions of evolved cultural practices and rituals. Design Fictions are the things we want to create that are evocative rather than definitive, that imply rather than impose.
And these little moments, the various furnishings in the form of Design Fiction archetypes, are all done up with high level of acuity ‘as if’ it were something you might expect to see at any moment. Done this way, the purpose of Design Fiction is to pull on the imagination of the various stakeholders, activating them in such a way that questions begin to emerge. Design Fiction finds the relevant, burning questions. With these questions we are on a course to gain a deeper understanding of the possibilities of this near future.
The job of Design Fiction is not to tell you what will happen, but what happens. Not what will take place, but what always take place. Design Fiction gives you the typical, the familiar of today pulled forward like some kind of time-stretching taffy on a trajectory to something slightly different, yet familiar; a slightly oblique setting and context. There’s a continuity between today and the near future, and Design Fiction makes this plain in its own unique way.
We don’t produce Design Fiction and think that we’re seeing a prediction of the future. We produce Design Fiction to materialize our imagination and thereby learn and converse about what it would be like to live in a possible near future.