Design Fables: Reconfiguring Emerging Technology Narratives

Grover, Holly Tamsin
Smitheram, Miranda
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Master of Design
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this interdisciplinary project is to investigate how a design-led approach could generate critical and creative narratives about emerging technologies. This provocation led to the creation of a design fables methodology and a small collection of cosmologically situated stories that take the form of prototypical artefacts, these are contextualised by fable-like stories.

The contextual review identifies dominant Silicon Valley narratives as technological solutionism, computational thinking, and considerations of technology as innately neutral. A performative, new materialist understanding of how narrative forms is used to identify approaches for ethical subversion of these narratives. Reflective design practice is employed to test and inform the contextual discussion, and this oscillating process led to metaphorical new materialist concepts and practices becoming both literal and material. The design process uses playful and attentive mediation practices to find spaces for creative reworking of technology narratives. World-building practices are then used to make space for the repositioning of technological discussion in social and cultural worlds, aided by the narrative elements of fable and fairy tales. Informed by the position of the researcher practitioner, the fables apply an anti-colonial relationality as a guiding cosmological principle for the design of this fictional world. The resulting stories work in this situated space to materially and structurally reconfigure emerging technology narratives both ethically and mythologically.

The contributions of this research arise from its transversal interdisciplinarity. Through the methodological construction of design fables, the research explores how generating and working in the cosmology-led medium of fables and folklore can create rich opportunities for affirmative and deeply situated critical design practice. Within this research, this process applied new materialist understandings both theoretically and materially to explore this further. The project exemplifies how new materialism can ethico-onto-epistemologically offer directive opportunities for practice-led research.

Emerging technologies , Critical design , Medium design , New materialism , Fables , Fairy tales , Cosmology , Situated knowledge , Technology , Critical materialities
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