Beyond Reality: The Radical Imagination of Speculative Design
Author: Huai-An Hsing
M.A., Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition,
National Yang-Ming University
We all live in reality. Such reality consists of our perspectives towards the world. Individuals and the collective society alike are faced with predicaments that oftentimes derive from problems neglected or unclarified. The crux remains unidentified because we tend to understand the conditions we're in through a set of established perspectives.
Since the Industrial Revolution, design is regarded as the creation of objects to solve problems in human daily lives. But what if the object of design is reality itself? How can we design reality then?
British designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby introduced the concept of speculative design in Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming, a book published in 2013. Speculation means to conceive of what differences there'd be if the world was unlike the one we're in.
During the process of speculation, designers imagine the world according to a set of theoretical hypotheses. By doing so, designers make sense of underlying issues and further examine how reality operates.
Speculation is not merely imaginative. It is also critical. Design works with speculativeness assert questions and discontent against reality. The object of speculative design is unreality which is non-existing yet possible. To explore and demonstrate the possibility of unreality, designers reconstruct time and space, turning the unseen to be seen. Through fiction, we not only perceive the possibilities of a different world but more importantly, we attempt to elaborate on certain possibilities that we aspire to achieve through the realization of speculations.
Speculative design raises questions about the world and reshapes the common perception of design. It also offers guidance in responding to predicaments in reality. Between reality and fiction, a quasi-reality is formed where we can break free of established perspectives, rethink the present, and contemplate the future.
The society is infested with invisible problems. Rigid social structures enable oppression to live in the unconscious. New Now is an exhibition that argues, issues can be reached by means of speculative design. Being in the relations between our internal worlds and the environment, we shall all examine the status quo of our society outside the box.
Imaginations are often radical, discouraged always, sometimes even prohibited. However, imaginations lay the groundwork for changes inarguably. Faced with a pressing reality, by virtue of speculating outcomes of various situations, the aims of further actions are clarified.
Speculative design is the manifestation of human agency. It shakes the established present, enabling us to discover possibilities for change. Noted the significance, design becomes a way of practice of ethics. Through speculation, we probe deep into society through ethical gestures and unveil supplementary options beyond reality.
View New Now: Critical, Speculative and Fictional Exhibition
Published in October 10, 2020