Design for debate, an introduction to design fiction and my research topic
I had the pleasure to give a presentation of my research and to introduce design fiction again at Pôle supérieur du Design – Villefontaine. My presentation was organised in three categories that respect the 3 necessary steps to make design fiction (according to the 3 parts of my research design space):
- Proposing alternatives by design,
- Provoking meaningful reactions,
- Articulating a discussion/debate
After an introduction to the first branch of my design space (proposing alternatives), I gave some exercises (listed bellow). A week after it was great to already see improvements and appropriations of my advices. (Sorry, this feedback is composed of raw notes in french.)
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Intro – Le design fiction est voué à soulever des questions chez l’audience/utilisateur quand au monde dans lequel on vit – et ce, par la confrontation avec des produits de design venus d’un autre monde et dont la conception repose sur d’autres valeurs que celles que l’on connait.
›› Check all the blogpost about this course here ‹‹
Next course here
The other day I had a good conversation with my friend Alex, he’s an electronic & digital artist, as I was presenting my work he stopped me right in the beginning to ask about critical design legitimacy.
“— Alex: Why is design relevant on the topic of critique? Is it just a fashionable trend?
— Max: No it’s not! OK maybe it has been fashionable during a period of time when popularized by Paola Antonelli and Bruce Sterling (under the name of Design fiction). But it no longer is and I find it more interesting now that we can observe what is left of it, what is it really good for.
— A: So why design and why critique? Art and philosophy have done that for ages.
— M: Critical design is different from critical theory and art, as it does not have the same tools and it does not touch the same people. In the popular culture design produces a familiar typology of objects – commissioned by a client, aiming at a user – that integrates well into our lives (and changes it). Design object have a different place than art or literature objects: they are aimed to be “used”. Therefore they are touching different people (and differently). They can reach the consumer (i.e. pretty much everybody).
— M: Talking about consuming. In our current (consumerist) society, design and designer stand at a different place than philosophers and artists. They are at the interface of industries (plus other stake holders) and consumers. They translate technology and stake holders goals into user needs, at least they participate to making the final artefact appealing. I do not want to enter in a debate on consumerist society, I do not either think that designers have a legitimacy to propose critiques and solutions. But talking about designers role and impact, their place in the society is different and relevant (comparing to art and philosophy), they can (and they must) take action if they want to explore alternative paradigms and to stimulate the audience’s reflective concern for the current state of things.
About distance between critical theory and critical design
“we launched the term critical design ten years ago in order to describe our work. Sometimes people think it simply means criticism; that we are negative about everything, anti-consumerist and against design. Some people relate it to critical theory; to Frankfurt school and anti-capitalist thinking. We are definitely aware of it, but then again, not in that category either. Critical design is about critical thinking – about not taking things at face value. It’s about questioning things, and
trying to understand what’s behind them. In essence, our objective is to use design as a means for applying skepticism to society at large” p.22
Puolakka, A., & Sutela, J. (2010). Foundations: Dreaming Objects. In OK Do (Ed.), Science Poems
About people literacy for criticism :
“Critical design’s ability to inculcate critical thought and the imagination of alternative futures is dependent on how insightfully people can read designs: aesthetic perception, imagination, insight, and experience are not effects simply caused by visual stimuli (no matter what HCI research says on the subject); they are the result of a skilled and expert cultural subject’s efforts. We know of no practice that theorizes about or, in a very everyday sense creates such subjects, more than criti- cism. Medium-specific analytic skills are the stock and trade of criticism, and it seems obvious to us that critical design can avail itself of and contribute to them.” p.3303
Bardzell, J., & Bardzell, S. (2013). What is critical about critical design?
“Understanding what’s critical about critical design might be easier if Dunne and Raby’s work clearly explicated a healthy range of critical outcomes that have emerged from critical designs. […] we read a lot about transgression, provocation, defamiliarization, and estrangement […] A thoughtful reader might wonder whether defamiliariza- tion and ideology really are all that “critical” boils down to.” p.3300