This month, my paper, “When designers ask, ‘What if?'” will be published as part of the World Future Society’s 2012 Conference Volume, a special issue of their peer-reviewed scholarly journal World Future Review. As a result, the papers selected this year will simultaneously reach not only those who attend the conference, but also the regular readers of the journal throughout the world.
Through this paper-writing process and the presentation at RMCCGN last week, I have been able to coalesce a great deal of my thinking on the scholarly side of the project. A clearer summary is emerging. First, there is the intersection of science fiction, design, and visual narrative. While my thesis abstract lays it out, “…an examination of the implications that result when the designer, as auteur, becomes science fiction author, and produces the storytelling as a graphic novel using a computer graphics platform (CG)”, it’s getting easier to explain what that means.
First there is the introduction of the term, design fiction and the demonstration that design can, indeed, work with science fiction and science fiction can spin-off design, but that there is more too it than simply envisioning the next high tech gadget or user-interface. Design fiction can become a form of design research. Because true design fiction, is design that works with the fabric of the narrative, it creates a model not just of an object but of a culture and lets us examine “the interdependency of things.” This is a huge distinction because it is design as it should be. Fitting speculative design into narrative context— the graphic novel—where people live and breathe in dramatic interaction with their surroundings and each other is very much a design research model immersed in a culture and a speculative ethnography.
Through design fiction, we can speculate on things and technologies that may become the daily fabric of our lives. It can help us to examine what is important to us now. Through sequential art — the graphic novel — we can focus on the human drama (as opposed to the object(s)). The uniqueness of the graphic novel allows us to linger and say, “Look at this.” But not with the intent of how the thing was made, but perhaps, “Is it useful?” “Could we make it now?” “Should we make it at all?” and most importantly, how will it change us if we make it?