Week Four

Design Futuring and Scenario Building

This weeks lecture, by Lizzie Muller, was particularly interesting and relevant. Understanding and predicting the future is definitely an important aspect of creating and designing. A range of interesting topics were brought up by Lizzie over the course of this lecture. It is interesting to note how people can be nostalgic about the future – such as in the steampunk subculture highlighted by Lizzie. It would appear that people have always put a sort of timeline on the future, creating a date at which point the future will exist. It is impossible to create this sort of cap on the future, as the future is infinite (at least from the perspective of a human with a finite life span).

There were some eye opening things discussed, such as the problems of mining for Coltan (used in all mobile phones and many other common electronic devices), the reprogramming of humans to work more and more with machines rather than each other and our own inability to predict our future behaviour.

A Future of Glamour vs. Disaster

The most interesting point made by Lizzie was the two ideas of the future – the glitzy and the bleak. While many people envision the future to be made in places such as MIT, others envision a future of natural disasters and lack a lack of resources.

Solutions to these problems are often being developed in these glamorous labs. Continuing from the example of MIT, here is one solution that was developed as a response to the Haiti disaster – a portable solar-powered desalination system that could be used to reduce problems with dehydration on the island, harnessing their two most common resources of solar radiation and Caribbean ocean. While the solution is certainly beneficial and can be used in future applications, it presents a number of problems with developing these solutions in these labs.

Significantly, this solution was created after the problem became apparent and was not created as a result of a future scenario. It highlights the problem that humans have with reacting to stimulus to solve problems rather than predicting and building them from there. One Tony Fry quote implies this problem of this set to a larger scale – “Of course, the fundamental problem with a project that depends on large scale grant funding is that there are few, if any, major funding sources that will fund projects that are actually progressive, rigorous and radical.” (Fry, Tony, Design futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, 2009, p. 152)

Video: Steven Dubowsky, Amy Bilton, Leah Kelley

Next Assignment

There was discussion regarding the next assignment – to build scenarios around futuring. It looks like it will be insightful – I have already done the first interview, which brought up some interesting concepts from the perspective of someone over fifty.


http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/itw-portable-desalination-1015.html – MITnews, October 15 2010, accessed 31/03/2011

Fry, Tony, Design futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, 2009


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