The concept of Design Fiction, explained by Bruce Sterling (Week 2.1 Reading)

As described by Bruce Sterling, Design Fiction is the use of ‘diegetic’ prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. Essentially it means using ideas that project very closely towards objects and services that people can relate to in a manner that has them speculating about the potentiality of its existence.

Diegetic- A type of storytelling that presents the detail of a story’s interior world. As such design fiction would fall as something diegetic as it attempts to tell a story to individuals through the design of narrative, more likely physical, artifacts within the world of a story.

From an interview with Bruce Sterling, one of the biggest proponents of design fiction, we come to understand more about this new conceptual genre of
fiction that has been gracefully propelling itself in more intricate ways.
In his conversation with editor Tori Bosch, he explains how the ideal, effective use of design fiction is by showing people the interaction of services and objects with seemingly normal activity.

So no avatar-like heroes, as Bruce describes, but rather something along the lines of this:

From here, Bruce further goes onto explaining the essential quality of design fiction is the fact that it relates more to technological advancements hence working effectively as a neutral interest that anybody could hold fascination to regardless of their standpoints and opinions.

He makes the distinction between Hollywood’s purpose and design fiction as something that CAN correlate, but not necessarily to replace one another, primarily to the fact that elements of designed fiction can be used in support of purporting a potential technological story world rather than replacing the qualities it has.

Using space odyssey as a example, Bruce demonstrates how the object such as the Ipad like idea which was used in the film shows the success of a diegetic artifact that was, and has become acutualized, as a relatable protoype, being the Ipad.

 The Bad

Further into the interview, the points Bruce Sterling makes towards bad design fiction builds a clearer picture of the rubric he sees the genre through. As he describes, a concept with a lack of aspiration towards inspiring others to imitate. With the example hes given of a guy thinking of ‘flapping’ his arms to get to the moon, he shows that it is imagination that lacks a compelling factor.

As such, it can be understood from Bruce Sterling that successful design fiction would have to attain a compelling quality, or rather, an ability suspend disbelief about change with its success as a piece of design fiction determined by the extent to which it can do so effectively.

(Im sure Bruce Sterling wouldn’t be too approving of something like this, [picture credits to])

Bruce wraps up by commenting on design fiction’s presence as a new set of tools society has at hand to engage the world with. Despite uncertainty to whether it is something ┬áthat will lead the economy (as implied jokingly by Bruce), it certainly raises interesting ideas and implications, or perhaps thoughts toward a practice that will more intricately be able to fortell the potential future.

With creative thinking and visualization becoming a common meme of society, especially with more user-based outlets of expression, it is interesting to see how far contributions to design fiction will go and how much people are able to stretch the perceived boundaries of this new ideation.

However, Matthew Ward continues where Bruce stops and looks further into the possible implications of this concept and how it be stretched beyond the aspect of literature.


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