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Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming

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How to use design as a tool to create not only things but ideas, to speculate about possible futures. Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about How to use design as a tool to create not only things but ideas, to speculate about possible futures. Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be--to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want). Speculative Everything offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more--about everything--reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.


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How to use design as a tool to create not only things but ideas, to speculate about possible futures. Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about How to use design as a tool to create not only things but ideas, to speculate about possible futures. Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be--to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want). Speculative Everything offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more--about everything--reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.

30 review for Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vuk Trifkovic

    Great ideas, disappointing book. Too much of a survey/catalogue, too little insightful stuff that they have published in other formats.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Adams

    Good over-view of the realm of speculative design. Provides a refreshing view point to the market driven design so prevalent. Touches on many other works and books that are worth exploring.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    This book is damn awesome. Truly "a catalyst for social dreaming". It is always exciting to find new methods to study things, ways to break the establishment, to truly innovate. This is a fantastic manual on speculative design. A quick read bearing an informed, open-minded and humble voice along its way. It is also quite a fun book with very curious examples (most of which I have to admit to having never seen before). A good book to broaden your horizons, which I recommend to anyone interested in This book is damn awesome. Truly "a catalyst for social dreaming". It is always exciting to find new methods to study things, ways to break the establishment, to truly innovate. This is a fantastic manual on speculative design. A quick read bearing an informed, open-minded and humble voice along its way. It is also quite a fun book with very curious examples (most of which I have to admit to having never seen before). A good book to broaden your horizons, which I recommend to anyone interested in design or any kind of research.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kaeley

    Anyone interested in critical and speculative design should read this book. Dunne and Raby present their thoughts and arguments clearly with plenty of design work examples shown throughout to inspire and allow for a large spectrum of what critical and speculative design can be. This book really helped to shape my design practice.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vadim Smakhtin

    There is surprisingly small number of books about design fiction or speculative design. I think we definitely need more, because such books saving design professionals from common cliches in consumer and profit driven world of "modern" and "innovative" design.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark Poulsen

    Speculative Everything offers a rather well-developed argument for the beginning of a conceptual design practice concerning itself with speculation, imagination, world-building, fantasies, utopians, dystopians, stories, fictional objects, political ideologies etc. There is a lot to unpack and perhaps this is also where the book falters. While it offers a sympathetic argument: we can use design to speculate, to offer new ideas of what the future can look like (whether improbable or probable; wante Speculative Everything offers a rather well-developed argument for the beginning of a conceptual design practice concerning itself with speculation, imagination, world-building, fantasies, utopians, dystopians, stories, fictional objects, political ideologies etc. There is a lot to unpack and perhaps this is also where the book falters. While it offers a sympathetic argument: we can use design to speculate, to offer new ideas of what the future can look like (whether improbable or probable; wanted or not-wanted) to make us think, reflect and ultimately make decisions for the future based on a greater capacity to understand where we come from and what we take for granted. But anyway, while it offers a sympathetic argument, it spends most of the time unpacking the large collection of everything speculative in design, art, literature, filmmaking, think tanks and so on. "Speculation" becomes the collective umbrella term, but I have to wonder if all of these works can really be compared just like that. Perhaps. However, it does establish a design practice that seeks to not improve the "here-and-now) but instead offer variations; imagined variation of futures where our relation to lots of things in our everyday life is changed somewhat, perhaps by the designs themselves, perhaps prior to justify the existence of such designs. This review is very hastily written, I realise that. The book spends the first few chapters establishing its "practice", but it is rather unclear about the methodologies, the limits of its use, and I am also rather sceptical towards its underlining moral layer that certainly influences the goals of the practice, but perhaps also undermines the role of criticism in a larger role. In this sense, the book echoes the other related book "Hertzian Tales". The rest of the book then deals with themes of speculations, often from other fields, and showcases Maaany examples. Worth a read, but you can get most of it from the first few chapters

  7. 5 out of 5

    erv

    "As Fredric Jameson famously remarked, it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternativ to capitalism. Yet alternatives are exactly what we need. We need to dream new dreams for the twenty-first century as those of the twentieth century rapidly fade. But what role can design play?" Designduon Raby och Dunne vill med denna bok visa vilka möjligheter design kan ha att forma ett annat samhälle än det vi lever idag. Boken handlar om "Speculative design". Boken består av båd "As Fredric Jameson famously remarked, it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternativ to capitalism. Yet alternatives are exactly what we need. We need to dream new dreams for the twenty-first century as those of the twentieth century rapidly fade. But what role can design play?" Designduon Raby och Dunne vill med denna bok visa vilka möjligheter design kan ha att forma ett annat samhälle än det vi lever idag. Boken handlar om "Speculative design". Boken består av båda deras egna projekt samt exempel på andra projekt som rör sig inom Speculative design. Dem rör sig tvärdiciplinärt, refererar till flera olika områden förutom design och knyter samman.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rohit Gupta

    An amazing book that encapsulates ideas about critical and speculative design. The books packs lots of organized works in between two wider chapters. The content may seem like a survey paper but that is the fun part. Some parts are a bit too abstract (need more explanation) and I guess it may be due to the subject of the book. The book strongly challenges the current design practice that is using design to create demand for unreasonable goods. The book tries to widen this perceived scope of desi An amazing book that encapsulates ideas about critical and speculative design. The books packs lots of organized works in between two wider chapters. The content may seem like a survey paper but that is the fun part. Some parts are a bit too abstract (need more explanation) and I guess it may be due to the subject of the book. The book strongly challenges the current design practice that is using design to create demand for unreasonable goods. The book tries to widen this perceived scope of design to make it seem like a super power. "With great power comes great responsibility"

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rawad Hajj

    "Speculative Everything" invites designers to think beyond the limited, to surpass the borders created by years of commercialization, to stop "hoping" and start "Dreaming". A mental crusade to focus on philosophical, cultural, political and anthropological impact of design. A beautiful and simple introduction into the "Speculative Design" philosophy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    It was a great read and interesting topic. I just felt the authors were too focused on their own work. They also let their perspective stand in the way of a broader examination of the topic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ellis Donovan

    fun read

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jan Kroken

    We need more books like this

  13. 5 out of 5

    Supriya Raghavendra

    "The days of designers dreaming on behalf of everyone have passed....."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    "We have recently become interested in the idea of critical shopping. It is by buying things that they become real, moving from the virtual space of research and development by way of advertising into our lives. We get the reality we pay for. It isn't in the shops, waiting to happen, waiting to be consumed. Critical shoppers, by being more discriminating, could prevent certain material realities taking shape and encourage others to flourish. Manufacturers are never sure which reality we will emb "We have recently become interested in the idea of critical shopping. It is by buying things that they become real, moving from the virtual space of research and development by way of advertising into our lives. We get the reality we pay for. It isn't in the shops, waiting to happen, waiting to be consumed. Critical shoppers, by being more discriminating, could prevent certain material realities taking shape and encourage others to flourish. Manufacturers are never sure which reality we will embrace or reject, they simply offer them up and do their best through advertising to influence our choices" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #37). "In a consumer society like ours, it is through buying goods that reality takes shape. The moment money is exchanged, a possible future becomes real. If it did not sell it would be sent back, becoming a rejected reality. In a consumer society, the moment we part with our money is the moment a little bit of reality is created. Not just physical reality or cultural but psychological, ethical and behavioral" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #37). "Yet designers participate in the generation and maintenance of all sorts of fictions, from feature–heavy electronic devices meeting the imaginary needs of imaginary users, to the creation of fantasy brand worlds references through products, their content, and their use. Designers today are expert fictioneers in denial. Although there have always been design speculations (e.g., car shows, future visions, haute couture fashion shows), design has become so absorbed in industry, so familiar with the dreams of industry, that it is almost impossible to dream its own dreams, let alone social ones. We are interested in liberating this story making (not storytelling) potential, this dream–materializing ability, from purely commercial applications and redirecting it toward more social ends that address the citizen rather than the consumer or perhaps both at the same time" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #88). "Speculative design props do not stand in for the real thing and do not fit in to predefined behavioral schema; they are physical fictions, departure points for sophisticated imaginings never meant to be viewed as 'real,' or to reflect reality" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #92). "For us, the quality of objects in [Thomas Demand's] photographs epitomizes the aesthetic potential of models and their ability to straddle multiple realities—fictional and actual" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #117). "But why are these hidden realities interesting for the aesthetics of speculation? We think it is because they border on the unreal themselves, and it is very hard to believe many of them are real. Each place or device is unique or exists in highly limited numbers, and we are unlikely to ever see one for ourselves. They embody extreme values that for some have no place in this world. They seem to belong in a parallel world where extreme aspects of our own world have somehow metamorphosed into whole environments. In some cases, we are shocked to discover they are in fact from our own world. For us, these are proto–images for an aesthetics of speculation. They suggest a techno–poetic landscape situated somewhere between what we are and what we have the potential to become" (Dunne & Raby, pg. #136,138).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Same as in Hertzian Tales, Dunn and Raby advocate for designers to be more than just crutches for consumerism. Product design (not the one that actually makes it onto the market, but the one that could be showcased in galleries and on diverse media channels) could join architecture, film, literature, philosophy in imagining possible futures. Yet instead of predicting the future or solving future problems, these designs could be thought experiments that criticize, provocate and stimulate debate. Same as in Hertzian Tales, Dunn and Raby advocate for designers to be more than just crutches for consumerism. Product design (not the one that actually makes it onto the market, but the one that could be showcased in galleries and on diverse media channels) could join architecture, film, literature, philosophy in imagining possible futures. Yet instead of predicting the future or solving future problems, these designs could be thought experiments that criticize, provocate and stimulate debate. Create multiple "what if" scenarios to make our everyday reality more mallable, so we don't lose track of "what could be" in this one-track consumer oriented world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bailey McGinn

    I cannot recommend Speculative Everything enough, especially to other designers. It's exciting to see a movement towards more critical projects that use design as a conduit for proposing plausible futures: the good, the bad and the in between. This book reminds us that we need challenge our perspectives and dream big!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Relatable to a lot of disciplines. It makes the case for using using the speculative as a way to explore future possibilities where the designer poses both the question and provides an answer. Where design speculation is a tool that subverts and challenges our relationship with reality.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Yang Qian

    Textbook.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Una

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Rose

  21. 4 out of 5

    Markus Nowak

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo Engreitz

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marta Sukhno

  25. 4 out of 5

    Luana Moura

  26. 5 out of 5

    Harriet Matzdorf

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emre

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nyein C. Aung

  29. 4 out of 5

    Luis Morales-Navarro

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cat Bousquet

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