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).
Here are my rough notes from the ETech 09 talk by Lane Becker and Thor Muller of Get Satisfaction.
The End of Obsolescence: Engineering the Post-Consumer Economy
System of Consumerism: Economists think recessionary patterns (eg cobblers, repair) are transient and spending/consumption will return. Disposable culture. Planned obsolescence, lock-in, bigger is better –> The Ownership Society. No such thing as an infinite loop (eg pop dynamics). Rise & fall of growth and recessions is taken as a given of a natural cycle. Landscape amnesia. People forget what it used to be like. Our situation looks much more like a sharp asymptotic curve leading to a much sharper crash. Consumerism, growth curve is crashing quickly. Speed kills but it can force us to change in real time.
The Great Compression. A squeezing out perceived value to leave only real value in our economy. We have under-estimated the costs and over-estimated the value. Value destruction at work (slide shows sectors of economy with huge chunks that make things of no value or move value around, esp wholesale trade, manufacturing, financial investment – these are being selected against). NYT: Job losses hint at vast remaking of US Economy. Collapse – social, environmental, financial. Environment being wrapped up as the gooey center of the larger collapse. All of our systems are under pressure to remove false value and select for intrinsic value.
Design Patterns for Post-Consumerism: weak signals, indicators that suggest possible directions. What could replace consumerism? Two types of patterns: 1) Go back to basics. Not likely. Service economy represents giant heatsinks of human activity. Free time, cognitive potential. Other heatsinks are terrorism and civil unrest. How can we effectively use people’s free time. 2) Progressive future. Eg The Diamond Age; Universal copy machine. Physics & culture at the heart of the problem. Bits don’t move – they are copied. What can’t be copied? What is important? Culture becomes all-encompassing. World breaks out of nation-states into tribes. Culture is defined by what people make. OpenSource as example of removing economics of production. We still make & participate & contribute & collaborate.
Design Pattern 1: FREE. What economic & cultural value can be created outside of capital? What if everything was free? We assume economic trade must be the primary framing of value in our lives. Capitalism is shrinking. It must compressed because a lot of economics is perceived value, not actual value. This encourages alternatives that build real value. Design
Pattern 2: Repair Culture. Old school. When something is built to last, you want to see it last. We need objects that tell us to take care of them. Inverse of culture of obsolescence. The curse of innovation. Always improving products… how to avoid obsolescence? Eg DIY & Maker culture. Now there are customer communities & repair cultures for everything. Emergent business ecosystem that rises from repair communities. Eg Twitter community of teachers, services.
Design Pattern 3: Reputation Scaled. Reputation is the fertile ground from which civilization arises. Keeps us honest. Internet has transformed the village into the global village. This has transformed reputation (nobody can hide). Eg microlending. Collective reputation. Rewired the system to fund people without credit. Lent to groups of people who know each other – individual reputations are tied to group reputation. Innovation from the bottom-up. Eg Tidy Towns. Engage people in rural Irish towns to get passionate about clean cities. Town, community, individual. Tying individual reputation to larger group reputation.
Design Pattern 4: The Loanership Society. Lending stuff we can spare or don’t use. Eg why does everybody have a power drill? Why not share across groups? Eg Eco-neighbuzz. “I need a drill. Can anyone lend me one?” Make it a utility. Eg utility of the Zipcar. Notion of ownership over solid media versus subscription models. Subscription models for everything. Eg Comcast bundles subscriptions. People want a la carte. Hence more people are going to the web for content on their own terms. Pride of ownership vs. pride of stewardship. Eg John Muir. Not “I own this thing”, but “we collectively have a guardianship”. What are the environments where stewardship is more appropriate than ownership?
Design Pattern 5: Virtual Production. Eg device containers that stuff gets made and sold for. Not solid product but digital goods. Breaking cycles of production & consumption. Eg iPhone & apps. Eg. Air Level, iCandle. Se amount of economic activity that involves creating new stuff is being retargeted to virtual goods. Such goods get better over time rather than decaying. Eg Last.fm. Creating micro-economic climates. New metrics.
How can we move the culture towards these trends. Amplify the patterns. We have the opportunity, the tech, and the will. Benefit ourselves and our culture, our futures and our children.
These are my rough notes from last week’s E-Tech talk by Gavin Starks of AMEE:
We are hitting peaks and resource limitations. 5 potential futures: 1) Technology innovation; Salvation through technology but increasing reliance on it. 2) Services, not products; moving from car to public transport; carbon costs encourage services over hard products. 3) Reframing value; what is progress? what is value? Meaningful jobs, stronger communities cultivated. 4) Rationing; Things have gone too far, we need controls. Cap & trade. Sectors take control of citizens lives. Resource/H20 shortages leads to migrations and war. 5) War. Conflict over limited resources; divided communities; tribalism & territoriality. Quotes James Lovelock “90% population cull in this century”.
Hansen: “Caps won’t work – we need carbon tax.” Are we moving to post-capitalist society? Triple-bottom-line accounting: fiscal, social, environmental. McKinsey: “Capitalism is a multi-generational Ponzi scheme.” Need carbon tax. Carbon will be part of the US budget by 2011. federal cap & trade. Business-science-policy-technology: system of interconnects. Lots of data coming. EU policy stack being implemented. Anyone using over 6GWh or more than L500k/yr must disclose energy use. Coming to US. Carbon reduction commitment, energy efficiency, renewable obligations. “Moving to an economic age where we need to start obeying the 1st law of thermodynamics” [energy can neither be created nor destroyed]. Unpacking huge amounts of data. 20 largest cities use 75% of global energy. Future: many smaller cities. Pop density: cities are your country. Many local points of production & supply, networked together. No time left for closed systems. I/O models of everything. Democratization of energy. Smart grids. Microgeneration.
Data: citizens & things, private sector. public sector, cities, countries, earth. Data: purchases, materials, building, travel & transport, fuel & water & waste. Eg. SAP: 70% footprint is travel. Data is dangerous to business. Smart meters, eg fridge monitor yields whole layer of info. Every device will have accessible, identifiable profiles from data reporting. Energy Identity: Digital embodiment of your physical consumption. How to protect your digital identity? Now: everyone else assumes they own your data (utilities, suppliers, banks, retailers, etc). You own your data & can share or license it to interested parties. Collaboration networks are to business as social networks are to consumers. Emerging ecosystems, eg Planetary Skin, Oracle, IBM, Google & GE. Info about energy use; new grid; data on use belongs to you in standard, non-proprietary format. Lee: “Unlock all your raw data.” SW/SaaS/Systems integration. [tie into ERP] Eg Sun – Open Eco. Trading: Misys, EarthCP, Sandbag. Meters: Carbonmetrics, ISE. Consultancies: EQ2, NaturalLogic, CarbonVision, Greenmonk. Need transformational shift towards re-engineering behavior & production. Recession has so far had little input on carbon use.
To Do: 1) Give everything an energy ID; 2) Build SmartGrid behavior into everything; 3) Measure & map all of it; 4) Lobby for & create open standards; 5) Sort out data ownership now.