Designing for Futures at the Intersection of Speculative Design, Storytelling, and Systems thinking

Shao, Alicia
Morrison, Ann
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

The future seems like an abstract concept with many disparities between the way designers approach the topic. Why does the future look different to different people? How do we design for something that is unknown? The aim of this study is to expand on the philosophical underpinnings of the future by examining how different disciplines shape our perception and subsequent reaction to the future. This theoretical essay examines the future at the intersection of speculative design, storytelling, and systems thinking, in an attempt to paint the complexity of the future by investigating the underlying philosophy behind each of the disciplines. Storytelling casts the future as a subjective experience due to its phenomenological nature. In speculative design, the future is perceived as non-anthropocentric and demands equality. In systems thinking, future is rooted in the experience of time as an extension of the present. This thesis proposes to examine futures holistically based on the approaches of indigenous cultures, to inspire a sustainable path to the future.

To design for futures, we must recognize the political nature of both the future and design, and what it means to design for a future that is desirable for the generations to come. Designed futures are not bloodless – it is always coloured with a uniquely human warmth. Designed futures are selfless – it is not only about humans as a species but demands fairness for all. Designed futures are rooted – it is not an isolated concept but an extension of the present. To design for these futures, the designer must learn to extend empathy beyond themselves to listen to other’s stories, to extend beyond mankind, to give a voice to those without, to extend empathy beyond our own temporality, to design for systems that have existed before us and will continue to exist after us. By dissecting our own understanding of the future, it becomes possible for us to recognise our own biases and develop our own ethics on the topic of designing for futures and dreaming new dreams.

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