One of the readings for this week was an interview with Bruce Sterling, an award winning science-fiction writer, but also a vocal advocate of what is known as “design fiction”. He defines design fiction as being, “the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend belief’s about change.” Sterling is appearing at a conference at Arizona State University, called ‘Emerge: Artists and Scientists Redesign the Future‘, which serves to facilitate lecturing and discussion about what the future might look like.
I found some of the things said by Sterling to be quite interesting, especially at his mention of a legal case between technology giants Apple and Samsung. In the lawsuit, there was reference to an iPad-like tablet that was used as a prop in the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which you can watch, here. Sterling used this as an example of a design fiction that proved to be successful, 45 years later, as you can now walk down to your local electronics store and purchase one.
Another interesting observation by Sterling was in his response when asked what it was that made design fictions work so well. He replied quite reasonably, “Talking about a future gadget isn’t like talking about a future government or women’s rights in the future or other hot-button problems. Plus people are interested in things like that.”
A pretty reasonable statement to make, that electronic toys are more likely to grab people’s attention than social rights or political issues. Perhaps a reflection of people’s general exhaustion at the topic of politics, or anything ‘serious’, or maybe more a statement about the imagination within everyone that needs, at least occasionally, to be exercised.