Julian Bleeker – Design Fiction: A Short Talk on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction. [Etech09 Notes]

My raw notes from Julian Bleeker’s talk at E-Tech 2009 – Design Fiction: A Short Talk on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction. [This is a topic near & dear to my heart. Compelling narrative writes the future.]

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” Bucky Fuller. “Future is here it’s just not evenly distributed” W. Gibson. Near Future Lab and Nokia. Convergence between design, science, fact & fiction. Ways to meaningfully shape the future. Science, fact & fiction are all knotted up. Eg moments from films, eg Minority Report. How did minority report as a film become a meme around advanced speculative interface? Google search on “Minority Report” returns a muddling between the film and real experiments.

Imaginary worlds become instantiated in the real world. Becomes an index that helps cohere imagination around a desire to realize the speculative fiction. Expectations of what realized tech should do typically reference the prevailing fictional representation. Eg GSpeak – company looking at gestural interfaces, started by the guy that informed tech of Minority Report. Moved from fictional authority to real authority.

Stories Matter More Than Features, Specs & Engineering. The framing of a new idea helps transmit it and engage people to act on it or bring it to realization. Compelling fiction makes the effect of the tech transparent and easily understood. Eg don’t need to spend any time talking about the gestural interface in Minority Report – it explains itself. Eg Jurassic Park leading to Time cover about Dinosaurs. Conflating fact and fiction to look forward. Diegetic Prototype, “diegesis” the moment of the narrative – David A. Kirby. “Diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes”. Stories matter when designing the future.

Science Fiction Can Do Things Science Fact Cannot. A hybrid of the two can do more than either alone. Science fiction is much better at circulating scientific knowledge than real science. The narrative is compelling, the delivery is humanized. Expands the realm of possible futures. eg Star Trek, How William Shatner Changed the World; Star Fleet Technical Manual. Eg Death Star over San Francisco. Eg Dark Knight.

Entanglements between fact & fiction. Finding productive ways to allow the crossover. Highlighting the concern over ubicomp & surveillance. Eg Listening Post (Hansen & Rubin) displays conversations on the network. EG 2001 Filming the Future. Kubrik & Arthur C. Clark worked with scientists and ET researchers to better inform the narrative presentation. Conflict of what is imagined and what comes to pass. Possible challenges, pitfalls, and failures.

Why Muddle Design, Science, Fact, & Fiction? It’s valuable to explain, to imagine, to materialize ideas, and speculate about different kinds of worlds. How might the world transform itself and address the challenges that face us today? Using narrative to inform what might come to pass. Think of PKDick as a System Administrator. There are insights to be had when reading Bruce Sterling as Software Documentation.

Helps to Think of Science Fiction Props as Conclusion to Today’s Engineering Prototypes. What is the world like, what are their daily routines, and how are these things affected by the speculative tech? http://cli.gs/designfictionessay (failure is important so dystopias are valuable to show us what not to do, rethink and reflect on the proposition).

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