A selection of Design Fiction references

In a previous post about design friction, I talk about a design fiction bibliography. Here it is thanks to Niclas Nova. I might post an updated version in a couple of months – find the original here.

  • Auger, J. (2011). Alternative Presents and Speculative Futures: Designing fictions through the extrapolation and evasion of product lineages., Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
  • Auger, J. (2013). Speculative design: crafting the speculation, Digit. Creat., vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 11–35, 2013.
  • Bassett, C., Steinmuller, E. & Voss, G. (2013). Better Made Up: The Mutual Influence of Science fiction and Innovation”, Nesta Working Paper 13/07.
  • Bleecker, J. (2009). Design fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction, Near Future Laboratory, Los Angeles, CA,
  • Bleecker, (2011). Design Fiction: From Props To Prototypes, Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
  • Bleecker, J. & Nova, N., (2009). A synchronicity: Design Fictions for Asynchronous Urban Computing. The Architectural League of New York, New York, NY.
  • Candy, S. (2010).  The futures of everyday life: politics and the design of experiential scenarios, PhD thesis. The University of Hawai.
  • DiSalvo, Carl. (2012). Spectacles and Tropes: Speculative Design and Contemporary Food Cultures. The Fibreculture Journal(20).
  • Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2011). Design noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2001.
  • Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2014). Speculative Everything: design, fiction and social dreaming. MIT Press.
  • Forlano, L. (2013). Ethnographies from the Future: What can ethnographers learn from science fiction and speculative design?, Ethnography Matters.
  • Franke, B. (2011). Design Fiction is Not Necessarily About the Future, Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
  • Galloway, A. (2013). Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design, Ethnography Matters.
  • Grand, S. & Wiedmer, M. (2010). Design Fiction: A Method Toolbox for Design Research in a Complex World, DRS, 2010.
  • Hales, D. (2013). Design fictions an introduction and provisional taxonomy, Digital Creativity, 24:1, 1-10
  • Jain, A., Ardern, J. & Pickard, J. (2012). Design Futurescaping, Journal of Futures Studies.
  • Johnson, B.D. (2009). “Science Fiction Prototypes Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Future and Love Science Fiction”, in Intelligent Environments 2009 – Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Environments, Callaghan, V., Kameas, A., Reyes, A., Royo, D., Weber, M. (Eds.), IOS Press, Barcelona pp. 3-8.
  • Johnson, B.D. (2011). “Love and God and Robots: The Science Behind the Science Fiction Prototype “Machinery of Love and Grace””, in Workshop Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Intelligent Environments Augusto, J. C., Aghajan, V., Callaghan, V., Cook, D. J., O’Donoghue, J., Egerton, S., Gardner, M., Johnson, B. D., Kovalchuk, Y., López-Cózar, R., Mikulecký, P., Ng, J. W. P., Poppe, R., Wang, M. J., Zamudio, V. (Eds.), IOS Press, Nottingham pp. 99-127.
  • Kirby, D. (2010). The future is now: Diegetic prototypes and the role of popular films in generating real-world technological development. Social Studies of Science 40 (1), pp. 41-70.
  • Kirby, D., 2011 Lab coats in Hollywood: science, scientists and cinema. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Morrison, A. (2014). Design Prospects: Investigating Design Fiction via a Rogue Urban Drone, In Proceedings of DRS 2014 Conference. Umeå, Sweden.: 16.06.2014–19.06.2014
  • Raford, Noah. (2012). From Design to Experiential Futures, The Future of Futures: The Association of Professional Futurists.
  • Shedroff N. & Noessel C. (2012). Make It So Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. San Francisco: Rosenfeld.
  • Sterling, B. (2009), Design Fiction, Interactions 16 (3), pp. 20-24.
  • Ward, M. (2013). Design Fiction as Pedagogic Practice Towards a fictionally biased design education, Medium.
  • Zeller, L. (2011) What You See Is What You Don’t Get: Addressing Implications of Information Technology through Design Fiction” Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6770  pp. 329-336.

Design friction and other design fiction terminologies

After a chat with my former teacher and friend Nicolas Nova on design fiction terminologies I had the pleasure to receive from him a list of references (pasted in this blogpost, he also posted them on his blog). At the start of the conversation were the idea of using the “design friction” appellation. We thought it were new, when we found it with Remy Bourganel, here at EnsadLab. However, as pointed by Nicolas, Monica Gaspar Mallol already talks about it in her paper “Displaying f(r)ictions. Design as cultural form of dissent”, presented at SDN2010 in Bâles, Switzerland.

Picture of Monica Gaspar Mallol presenting her paper at SDN 2010 (photo by the SDN team)
Picture of Monica Gaspar Mallol presenting her paper at SDN 2010 (photo by the SDN team)

I remember I attended this conference and made a student presentation with Leila Jacquet, as being part of HEAD media design master, at the time.

Gaspar Mallol, M. (2010). Displaying F(r)ictions (p. 112). Presented at the Proceedings of the Swiss Design Network Symposium, Bâles, Switzerland.

Paper’s abstract: Displaying f(r)ictions. Design as cultural form of dissent
This paper examines at close quarters the role of fictions in design, in order to push forward the scope and influence of critical discourses in design. It aims to raise a cross-disciplinary debate around the redefinition of the design profession and also around the practices of curating and reflecting on design. Main theoretical reference has been “The practice of Everyday Life” by French sociologist Michel de Certeau. Certeau’s work has influenced the thinking of three authors that were relevant to further elaborate this study: the combination between material culture, design history and gender studies by Judy Attfield; the theory on relational aesthetics developed by Nicholas Bourriaud and the thinking of Jacques Rancière, specially his notion of dissent as form of political subjectivity that can create new modes of sensing. In order to test its arguments the paper establishes two scenarios, where negotiations between reality and fiction take place: the home and the museum. On the one hand, representative examples of critical design are examined and put in dialogue with the theoretical positions. On the other hand, the paper examines the transformations that happen in the museum’s space, when displaying critical design becomes a kind of rehearsal for alternative ways of living. Two exhibitions were analysed: Wouldn’t it be nice… Wishful Thinking in Art and Design (Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, 2008) and Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft (V&A, London, 2008).

The final part of the paper discusses how such positions in design play a critical role in society, by setting up micro-situations of dissent (disagreement), and in doing so they generate new forms of sensing and making sense in contemporary living. Conclusions will point at the potential of these design fictions (understood as projections) and frictions (considered as irritations) in order to re-fabulate the commonplace.

Other terminologies
When looking more around this appellation of “design friction”, there is are much other people using it (send me a message @maxmollon, if you find something). Philippe Gargov (from the blog “pop-up urbain”) for instance, also proposed to use this expression in december 2013 – without updates since then, unfortunately. However lot of other appellations are used, some new ones that do not last (glitch fiction) and old ones that became classics (mainly critical design, design fiction and soon, speculative design).

Finally, as listed by Anthony Dunne, many practices gravitate around a similar approach:

Speculative design, Conceptual Design, Contestable Futures, Cautionary Tales, Activism, Design for debate, Design fiction, Discursive design, Interrogative Design, Probe design, Radical Design, Satire, Social Fiction...”

(Taken from personal communication, Dublin, February 03rd, 2012). Let’s add to this list, counterfactual & alternative histories, critical software (Fuller, 2003), critical technical practice (Agre, 1997), reflective design (Sengers, Boehner, David, & Kaye, 2005) and critical engineering (Oliver, Savičić, & Vasiliev, 2011).
This number of appellations shows that it is difficult to limit these approaches to only one “school” of practices, or one group of designers.


Edit (2017.sept.17th): I expanded and refined this list of labels in the writing of my PhD thesis. It will be out soon, here or on Medium.com probably.

Reading note › Design fiction by Julian Bleecker

As I focus on specific themes for the writing of my first paper, I came back to basics of design fiction / speculative design / critical design. Here is my notes on Bleecker’s essay from 2009.

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Bleecker, J. (2009). Design Fiction (pp. 1–49). Near Future Laboratory.

This is the first essay coining the concept of “Design fiction” by Julian Bleecker in 2009. Here is his argumentation:
• Design connects concepts and forms, it crystalizes ideas into shapes. Its objects tell stories—as they can never exist outside an imagined context of uses—they are like conversation pieces around which reflective and speculative discussions can happen. Moreover, it tends to transform existing practices (e.g. financial-design), it could therefore transform the science of fact and of fiction to tell stories differently.
• Bleecker proposes “Design Fiction” as a way to tell thoughtful and speculative stories through designed objects. Those materialized thought experiments are physical instantiations of what could be the next future (sometimes critical ones).
• As a designer working with new technologies, Bleecker believes that imagining and materializing future habitable worlds matters as much as finding effective mechanisms for creating them, without waiting on the usual ways in which the future obtains. Design fiction does just that.
• David A. Kirby’s concept of “diegetic prototype” is mobilized to illustrate how the science of fact and the one of fiction are dependent. As a consequence, usual protoypes are presented as coherent functionally, but they lack a story about what make them matter. The “stories” are what help anchor those near future worlds in a shared imaginary, while the “objects” help move these stories forward, showing what’s promising about them (as Props) rather than fetishizing the object only (as Prototypes).
• Why science and SF? Science fact and science fiction are (not only, but they are) appropriated to knowledge making and circulation about near future. They routinely swap properties :
– Fiction follows fact: As in Jurassic Park strongly based on science experts, or Minority Report collaborating with the MIT (and inspiring back the industry);
– Fact follows fiction: as with Star Wars inspiring Cisco’s hologram. Bleecker also shows how the domain of Ubiquitous computing takes his roots and inspirations from science fiction; he settles on two articles from Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish.
Those are the reasons why Design fiction is suited to the task of imagining “more habitable” near future worlds through the tangling of science fact, fiction and design.

I am not interested in the Ubicomp part but I try to isolate criteria necessary to (god) Design fiction and ingredients at the core of this concept.

• “Design fiction […] is a conflation of design, science fact, and science fiction. [… that] ties them together into something new. […] materializing ideas and speculations [without the weight of pragmatism]” pp.6
“Why not […] explore possible fictional logics […] in order to reconsider the present.” pp.6
• Design fiction removes “the usual constraints when designing for massive market commercialization” pp.7
• “Design fiction is a mix of science fact, design and science fiction. […] that recombines […] writing and story telling with the material crafting of objects. [… It] creates socialized objects that tell stories […] encouraging the human imagination. […] stories that provoke and raise questions […] about possible near future worlds.” pp.7-8
• Inspired by pp.25: Design fiction explores and makes you think on what is soon probable, it makes “speculations on what the next ‘now’ will be like”.
• “Remember, this is a kind of knowledge-making work.” (suited for research !) pp.41

• The Diegetic Prototype: is “a kind of technoscientific prototyping activity knotted to science fiction film production that emphasizes the circulation of knowledge and ideas. It is like a concept prototype. […] The prototype enlivens the narrative, moving the story forward while at the same time subtly working through the details of itself. […] The diegetic prototype refers to the way that a science fiction film provides an opportunity for a technical consultant to speculate within the fictional reality of the film. [… It is] a necessary component of the story. The film itself becomes an opportunity to explore an idea, share it publicly and realize it, at least in part and with the consistency necessary for film production rather than laboratory production.”
“‘Cinematic depictions of future technologies are actually ‘diegetic prototypes’ that demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, benevolence, and viability. […] I show how diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes: in the diegesis these technologies exist as ‘real’ objects that function properly and which people actually use.’ [Kirby]” pp.39

• Near Future: “What is near future SF? […] it’s SF […] we, personally can conceive of living through […] this is where you are going. […] it’s almost the diametric opposite of a utopian work; utopias are an unattainable perfection […] You’re meant to think, ‘I could end up there’. […] Posted by Charlie Stross on October 2, 2008 2:14 PM on “Charlie’s Diary” http://antipope.org [http://cli.gs/4S8ndP]” pp.68

• Those designed objects “are like conversation pieces […] with the conversations being stories about the kinds of experiences and social rituals that might surround the designed object.” pp.7
• “…ideas are linked to their materialization by enveloping fact with fiction” […] “fiction is able to probe the further reaches of more habitable near future worlds”. pp.15

• “Design fiction is about creative provocation, raising questions, innovation and exploration.” pp.7
• [… These] “provocations are objects meant to produce new ways of thinking about the near future, optimistic futures, and critical, interrogative perspective.” pp.7
• Science fiction, “as Frederic Jameson describes it, ‘defamiliarize and restructure our experience of our own present’” pp.17
• About design fiction’s “object-ideas […] we consider them to be important transition points towards new, more habitable kinds social worlds.” pp.41
• About Ubicomp (appliable to anything else): “Moreover, science fiction not only imagines the context of the Ubicomp future, it presents possible consequences, implications and the inevitable failures of technologies to close the gap between the pitchman’s hype and the actual experience. Science fiction prototypes the concepts” pp.66

• There is no easy way to insert the cultural “implications” into the design practice of technology. Design fiction can tell stories as well as SF, hybridizing design, science, fact and fiction. Paraphrased from pp. 79
• “…K. Dick, Spielberg and Cruise together with a team of prop designers and technical consultants may actually be doing better Ubicomp than Ubicomp researchers at university and corporate research labs do themselves. In fact, […] they just don’t know it.” pp.67

• “Science fiction creates prototypes of other worlds. […] Designed objects […] are like artifacts brought back from those worlds in order to be examined.” […] “[These are worlds] because they contain enough to encourage our imaginations, […] filling out the questions, activities, logics, culture, interactions and practices of the imaginary worlds.” pp.7
• “good ideas circulate well when they have a story to go along with them, and a story that is about more than a gadget.” […] The object itself “helps move the story along.” pp.27
• The example of Minority Report: “The story […] fill out the meaning of the clue-construction device, to make it something legible despite its foreignness”. pp.35
• “it becomes apparent that the capability to tell stories […] offers a richer way of materializing these ideas, and circulating them. Providing a broader context by moving the instrument into the background, and bringing people and their stories into the foreground provides a more effective, compelling fiction.” pp.37
• “Whereas ‘design’ might typically highlight the object itself, outside of its dramatic context […] on a photographer’s silk pillow, demonstrating its vague, latent power absents its engagement by people and their practices.” pp.37
• “Fact becomes useful as a way to enliven fiction; fiction becomes a useful example and index for describing fact.” pp.63

• “good ideas circulate well when they have a story to go along with them, and a story that is about more than a gadget.” […] The object itself “helps move the story along.” […] Design fiction aspires at stories “that involves people and their social practices rather than fetishizing the object and its imagined possibilities.” pp.27
• “it becomes apparent that the capability to tell stories […] offers a richer way of materializing these ideas, and circulating them. Providing a broader context by moving the instrument into the background, and bringing people and their stories into the foreground provides a more effective, compelling fiction.” pp.37
›› Cursor 1: A prototype with use cases along -•———•+ A story with a proto. along

• The example of Minority Report: “The story […] fill out the meaning of the clue-construction device, to make it something legible despite its foreignness”. pp.35
›› Cursor 2: Enigmatic / foreign object -•–––•+ Legible / trivial object

References (if his shortlink don’t work, click them in his PDF in the bibliography)
• W. H. G. Armytage. 1968. Yesterday’s tomorrows: a historical survey of future societies. http://cli.gs/RJZV48.
• Joseph J. Corn, Brian Horrigan, and Katherine Chambers. 1984. Yesterday’s tomorrows : past visions of the American future. http:// cli.gs/sXLqEt.
• Fredric Jameson. 2007. Archeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. http://cli.gs/GMH2EH.
• “Progress versus utopia, or, can we imagine the future?” in Frederic Jameson’s “Archeologies of the Future” http://cli.gs/GMH2EH] (defamiliarize the present)
• David A. Kirby. Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular Films in Generating Real-World Technological Development. Social Studies of Science (forthcoming, Summer 2009). http://sss.sagepub.com/content/40/1/41.abstract
• Eugene Thacker. 2001. The Science Fiction of Technoscience: The Politics of Simulation and a Challenge for New Media Art. Leonardo 34 (2):155-158 http://cli.gs/nJnY9m.
• Gibson – Cyberpunk manifesto
• Sterling – Mirrorshades
• Paul Dourish, and Genevieve Bell. 2009. Resistance is Futile: Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing. Personal Ubiquitous Computing (forthcoming) http://cli.gs/mQ4yZA.
• Genevieve Bell, and Paul Dourish. 2007. Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision. Personal Ubiquitous Computing. 11 (2):133-143 http://cli.gs/XS36Mn.
• Anthony Dunne, and Fiona Raby. 2001. Design noir : the secret life of electronic objects. http://cli.gs/LW3N0B. William Gibson. 1984. Neuromancer. http://cli.gs/LW3N0B
List of the references he makes on science fiction/fact swapping properties
• Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin. ……… The listening post [http://cli.gs/puZArT]
• Tom Sachs: Space Program. 2009. http://cli.gs/jMNLn7.
• 2001: A Space Odyssey / The Mummy Returns / The 6th Day / Monkeybone. April 2001. Cinefex (86) http://cli.gs/hNMLyJ.
• Jurassic Park. August 1993. Cinefex (55) http://cli.gs/LP5zYh.
• Minority Report / Men in Black 2 / Reign of Fire. October 2002. Cinefex (91) http://cli.gs/un3YDA.
• Byron Haskin. 1955. Conquest of Space. USA. http://cli.gs/uSn5aS.
• Michael Horn. 2008. Death Star Over San Francisco. http://cli.gs/mmBtgN.
• Julian Jones. 2007. How William Shatner Changed the World. http://cli.gs/tUJs1d.
• Franz Joseph. 1975. Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual. http://cli.gs/rduvjm.
• Floris Kaayk. 2005. The Order Electrus. http://cli.gs/yXRqYu.
• ———. 2006. Metalosis Maligna. http://cli.gs/R3TSSD.
• Christopher Nolan. 2008. The Dark Knight. http://cli.gs/L8ZhPv.
• Irving Pichel. 1950. Destination Moon. USA. http://cli.gs/uSn5aS.
• Sascha Pohflepp. BUTTONS: Between Blinks & Buttons — “Blind Camera” 2006. Available from http://cli.gs/9dSp6D.
• Ridley Scott. 1982. Blade Runner. http://cli.gs/XDdLNR.
• ———. 1999. Distraction. http://cli.gs/6mRaY6.
• ———. 1998. Maneki Neko. http://cli.gs/mhQXN8.
• Wim Wenders. 1991. Until the End of the World. http://cli.gs/We1Szt.

Exhibition: L’adresse, Museum of La Poste

I didn’t know the existence of pneumatic networks of communication in Paris in the 60’s. I’ve always been fascinated by these devices in Brazil (1985), they look exactly like it! As shown in this video http://youtu.be/lfjLpa-n4d0?t=1h45m5s

I also found this information in Montagné’s book: Transmissions (2008) – see this post.
Text taken from the museum: “Le pneumatique apparaît à Paris en 1866, il est constitué d’un ensemble de tuyaux parcourus par des cylindres appelés curseurs et acheminés par déplacement d’air. Le réseau, placé dans les égouts, relie les bureaux télégraphiques. Il atteint une longueur de 400km en 1957. Les curseurs voyagent jusqu’à 600 mètres/minutes et peuvent contenir 35 lettres. Le pneumatique cesse de fonctionner en 1984.”

I found this last week, I went to L’Adresse Musée de La Poste. – http://www.laposte.fr/adressemusee – “L’Adresse Musée de La Poste is a place of preservation and diffusion of the mail heritage centred on Writing, History and Culture. From Seven League Boots to the Aeoropostale’s heroes, by way of the panorama of 160 years of the French postage stamps, the Museum collections tell us a story, not only about a company but also about everyday life. Openned since 1946” Here is a couple of pictures I made over there.

• Montagné, J. C. (2008). Transmissions. Jean-Claude Montagné.

L_adresse-musée de la poste-Paris_2013-02

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Below, the feeling of missing someone is directly linked to the act of writing letters – in this advert.
L_adresse-musée de la poste-Paris_2013-73

The rest of my pictures in this gallery

Figures from Montagné’s book: Transmissions (2008)

Back cover text in french: “J.-C. B. Montagné, a rassemblé dans l’ouvrage la presque totalité des procédés permettant aux hommes de toutes époques de communiquer entre eux à distance par la transmission de signaux. Son passé d’ingénieur radio-électronicien et son penchant pour un bon usage du Français lui furent utiles pour transcrire en langue courante à la portée de chacun les informations éparses dans les nombreux documents techniques consultés. Les références de ces documents rassemblés dans la bibliographie ouvrent le passage pour une recherche plus approfondie à ceux qui le voudront. Ouvrage de référence rapide, résumé, ce livre est sans doute les deux à la fois. L’expérience de la première édition en a apporté la preuve.”

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2013.08.21 Bibliography, Catching-up with the history of my topics

As a starting point with my research, before to start a sharp focus review of literature, I began by catching-up with some key readings and the History of :
• Interpersonal Communication Studies & Telepresence
• Speculation, Fiction & Critical Design
• Design Research
• Miscellaneous (HCI, Research Methods, Design Theory…)

Before diving into these lists, I started with Wikipedia to a have a general overview. Being aware of this overall structure helps me choosing what to “not read” in the following lists.
For instance, for the history of Interpersonal communication studies I began with:
History of Communication Studies
Communication Studies
Communication Theory and Communication
Interpersonal Communication
Computer-mediated communication
• Further readings on telepresence to be determined

Here a first preview of my reference lists (in my reference manager they are ordered by importance):
01-Catch-up history – Communication studies
02-Catch-up history – Speculation, critique, fiction & design
03-Catch-up history – Design Research
04-Catch-up history – Miscellaneous, HCI, research methods, design theory