Design fiction as a strategy for engaging with dystopian futures

The limits of our imagination: design fiction as a strategy for engaging with dystopian futures
By Joshua Tanenbaum, Marcel Pufal and Karen Tanenbaum (UC Irvine
Published in: LIMITS ’16 Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Computing within Limits
June 2016, 9 pages

In this paper we explore how design fiction — an increasingly common and relevant strategy within HCI and the Digital Humanities — can be used to get purchase on the future. In particular, we address how design fictional methods allow researchers to construct arguments about feared or dystopian futures within the context of collapse informatics. Fiction, as a research tool, allows us to do several important things with proximal futures: it allows us to adopt a range of different intellectual commitments and values about the future and explore the consequences of those commitments; it allows us to articulate these consequences to a broader public in a format that is more readily consumed and understood than a research paper; and it allows us to insulate ourselves from the emotional consequences of perceived proximal dystopias by creating space to “play with” and explore alternative visions of the future. We argue that paying attention to how popular culture represents scenarios of collapse can provide insight into how to express and communicate the challenges and potential solutions framed by the LIMITS community to a broad public audience.