Research Through Design Fiction: Narrative in Real and Imaginary Abstracts

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Research Through Design Fiction: Narrative in Real and Imaginary Abstracts
Mark Blythe – Northumbria University Newcastle, UK

Abstract: This paper reflects on the uses of prototypes in “Research through Design” and considers “Design Fiction” as a technique for exploring the potential value of new design work. It begins with an analysis of Research through Design abstracts in the ACM digital library and identifies an emerging language and structure of papers in this emerging field. The abstracts: frame a problem space, introduce a study, often involving the deployment of a prototype, and conclude with considerations, reflections and discussion. This format is then pastiched in a series of design fictions written for a project investigating new and emerging forms of reproduction in Art. The fictions take the form of “imaginary abstracts” which summarize findings of papers that have not been written about prototypes that do not exist. It is argued that framing concept designs as fictional studies can provide a space for research focused critique and development.

Material Belief, BioJewellery Questionnaire

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I found this questionnaire from Kerridge. Good for inspiration.

For the record, Kerridge also works on public engagement around technology (and science) societal issues.

Kerridge, T. (2009). Does speculative design contribute to public engagement of science and technology? (pp. 1–18). Presented at the Proceedings of the Swiss Design Network Symposium, Lugano.


In the UK there is a considerable and growing body of scientists, funding councils,  scientific societies and science communicators from various professional backgrounds  who have taken on the task of engaging the public with science and technology  (Burchell, 2007; Wynne, 2006). Recent policy commitments to fund these diverse  projects have been linked to the ‘problem’ of perceptions of risk attached to outcomes of  contemporary technologies including biotechnology and nanotechnology (Kearnes et  al., 2006). In this paper I outline some ways in which design practices could contribute  to these commitments to the public engagement of science and technology, by focusing  on Material Beliefs, a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research  Council 1. Additionally -­‐ and in the spirit of the conference theme of Multiple Ways -­‐ I  would like to cross over to Science and Technology Studies for some assistance with a  framework through which to stage a tentative and initial discussion of this contribution.

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