Unshocking the Future: Unlocking Artefacts from the Future
There are a million threads to pull from. Scott Smith coming from quite a different background to many futurists. A company of many different futurists around the world. His work is more historically based and more to do with working with large corporations provoking them to take action to respond to the future.
It is important to engage with the general public and their expectations of the future and how their lives will change in the future. Bring people closer to an understanding. VIDEO Clip - Pan Am plane landing from film version of Future Shock (1972)
Orson Welles – We live in an age of anxiety, a time of stress. We are the victims of our own technology...
Tomorrow is Today, Just Later (2008) Many visualisations of the future in the public space can distort their understanding - they interpret it as being unsettling and sudden, something which replaces any traces of the present. Real Life is not that sudden or shocking. We aren't suddenly taking just a pill for breakfast or flying with jet packs. For most people the future happens slowly in smaller increments.
Bleecker 2007 - a collection of writing about design fiction and future speculation Bruce Sterling - Interactions Magazine.
The Corporate Futures Approach
- Powerpoint presentations and bound reports - they get shelved very quickly.
- Even the best research gets stored, and very lightly consumed or engaged with.
The design profession brings futurists a better set of tools to present ideas about the future which might be more easily consumed. However, the extreme of this is a mediated 'pitch' were the future is wiped clean of any past that overlays anything that came before.
The ideas presented in designed futures may be more speculative e.g. talking shoes.
- But what is the tangible impact or use of such a future? It takes people away from a substantive discussion of the future.
Some approaches can invite a factionalisation where they dive very deeply into a very fictionalised future that has little bearing on real life. All of these approaches make it harder to provide a cohesive way of discussing futures.
Nick Foster presented a term that Scott Smith would have like to have claimed for himself - about the Future Mundane. (Nokia , Near Future Laboratory).
Another idea comes from Jeff Ryman (?) and the concept of mundane science fiction. Science Fiction has the potential be much more powerful than it currently is for exploring a mundane everyday life and introducing smaller 'future' phenomenon into life. Many visualisations of the future seem to represent a high level executive new world which replaces the current world and where everything works. But what about everyone else?
Monopoly of Legitimate Use – Revell
These videos show little presence of artefacts, but provide a way for an audience to place themselves in a near future. The pathway from a now situation to the future is easier to understand. These videos are fascinating and extraordinary in some ways, but not extraordinary at all.
Corner Convenience - filmed as part of a university workshop.
Where else would you find the everyday future but in a convenience store?
- Men's deodorant with electrolytes to refresh you from your hangover.
- Reading Glasses that have magazines (usually porn) inside of them.
Pop Culture Weird things are happening. The Good Wife, a legal drama, which contains little threads of strangeness which are already playing with our life and give us an idea of how our lives can change with new technologies - systems.
Can we map likelihoods of future fictions against a time frame of near to longer futures and on additional axis of likelihood?
- things that might be plausible, but not probable
- the outer edge of possible.
What hasn't been done yet is to effectively map existing design fictions onto these categories.
A Talking Shoe? Probable and near. Corner Convenience video ideas. Longer Time frame (years) but also plausible. Corning's (Glass manufacturers) Day Made of Glass - longer time away but also not part of a meaningful existence for most people.
Area of most interest for everyday people and those who try to engage with them are the ideas that are probable.
Future Everything Festival / Near Future Laboratory Exploration of big data and the impact of it on our daily lives. Used the city of Manchester to explore large scale design futures that are more accessible and accessed by general people. Could the discussion of big data be thrown into the heart of Manchester culture? - Football. Presented the effects of big data in the very near future of sport. Primarily presented in the National Football Museum which presents the last 130 years of football culture. Most people come there to explore the history of football, could it be used to introduce ideas of the future?
Newspaper, an Everyday Artefact
- How could data change near future sport?
- Algorithms were used to create a physical artefact - a daily tabloid newspaper.
- Described scenarios and used a newspaper to present and document these ideas.
- Analysed existing newspapers to see what aspects of football stories needed content.
- 28 pages, Newspaper Club in London
- 500000 distributed copies in National Football Museum.
- Additional 130000 copies presented as Sunday supplement to local newspaper to coincide with opening of exhibition.
- The date is from the future, but that might be the most obvious initial clue.
- As people read the additional levels of understanding were revealed. e.g. Manchester United sold to IBM to be managed by the Watson AI.
- Best compliment - writing so boring it seemed like a Sunday supplement.
- hypothesising if big data (Google, yahoo) invested in football.
- What would happen if the first four founds were played in video games without real players.
- How do mediated, tweeted responses to game play impact - contrast with a referee.
- Explored topics that are already being to emerge.
- Could fraudulent data be used for data doping (modifying a players statistics) before player swaps - buying.
- Advertisements also presented products that were used at an elite level, but which might trickle to consumers in the near future.
- Train engineers - gave feedback
- 'this thing I'd like, no, not for me. Don't want that in my game.
Newspaper artefact was 'rewilded' - placed on trams at the end of the night, in a phone booth. This action let people encounter the paper where they'd normally see such an artefact – now or in the future.
Featured in Barcelona at the Big Bang Data exhibition which explores impact of big data on our everyday lives. The lens of interpretation has changed from the city and the football museum to an audience used to thinking about the future. Newspaper also been translated into Catalan and Spanish. Can be ordered online. However artefacts like this are vulnerable – newspapers do not escape damage from leaking liquids.
Unshocked Futures. How do we organise design fictions work to differentiate one from another?
- Need to examine a complex system - not just one element.
- global and complex
- many moving parts and possibilities
- explore from the inside out
- explore subtleties more than extremities
- track the rate of change shown in 'actual' papers.
- provide an experiential on-ramp for the non-professional.
- how is it inviting for people to consume
- less on polemics, more on extrapolation
- seeks out entrenchment
- conscious decision to use a long lasting medium (newspaper) rather than an ipad.
- Calibrate the uncanniness
- play with it on a continuum to bring it more to the plausible
- bring the audience to the future.
Dunne and Raby - Speculative Everything People will automatically pick up a newspaper without thinking about it.
Do we need to calibrate our ideas when thinking about our audiences and the problems we are trying to discuss?
How did you try to measure success in the process of calibration?
- Had no idea of what it would look like or do. Hard to measure the response. Observational gauge people's reactions and invite them to talk about both the ideas and the form of presentation (newspaper). Next plans to develop more concrete ways of determining success.
Did you have the chance to observe / eavesdrop on reactions to paper?
- Initially more anthropological. Depended on the time of day - day of week. Children were less surprised, retirees felt that the ideas were too different and were quite sceptical. Was it an interface problem or a content problem?
- In Big Bang Data exhibit - the audience is more conversant with these ideas and engaged more quickly.
I heard there were problems with legal team, concerns with form of discussion? Was this frustrating?
- Insert into the evening news took it out of an art context - communication into commerce, legal issues, journalism ethics.
- Newspapers lawyers were immediately concerned
- Who are these people and why are they writing this? We had to change the names of people and brands.
- For it to sit properly in the world it needed a layer of reality, but move to media required changes that removed critical actors and diluted the work.
Politicians - resistance to change. But Commercial organisations especially smaller are more willing to innovate. How can social changes and technological changes fertilise and break each other?
- The changes don't happen at a steady pace and technology can move faster than social changes adapt.
- Politicians are the biggest producers of design fictions 'if you vote for me the world will look like this'. A rich area for exploration
In this project it hasn't happened yet. Do you have a way for non-professional audiences to discuss it amongst themselves? What is the social space where these conversations can take place.
It was an initial discussion and a production restraint. In the next piece how do you follow up and discuss it with people?
What triggers a reaction? How do we prod them to engage and then record both the triggers?
- Is there a proper vocabulary for doing this - what we have comes from market research and social science, design research.
- It makes it harder to review and move forward without a vocabulary that is shared.