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Thinking Out Loud
Thinking Out Loud
  • Between the Alternative Future and the Reality
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    Content by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson
    The following institutions have funded our research and supported our work:

    From 2013-2015 Mika is a guest professor at the eLab at Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee

    From July - December 2013 Hannah was a researcher at the UdK's Design Research Lab

    From 2010-2012 Mika was a guest researcher in the Smart Textiles Design Lab at The Swedish School of Textiles

    From 2009 - 2011 Hannah was a graduate student in the MIT Media Lab's High-Low Tech research group led by Leah Buechley


    In 2009 Hannah and Mika were both research fellows at the Distance Lab


    Between 2003 - 2009 Hannah and Mika were both students at Interface Cultures
    We support the Open Source Hardware movement. All our own designs published on this website are released under the Free Cultural Works definition
    Thinking Out Loud

    Between the Alternative Future and the Reality

    A lot of eTextlile/wearables projects are placed in the world of alternative future, like our project “Crying Dress”. These projects probably falls into the category of Critical Design or Speculative Design, where the designers/artists talk about their concern about the current situation by speculating the exaggerated version of that matter in future and design a object that highlights the issue. So, perhaps we can say that the object that is designed in this scope is not something we plan to use or wear. In fact, it is opposite. Talking about the Crying Dress, we thought about the future where the intricate hand crafts are used in electronics due to lack of electronics components as a result of mass consumption. Hmm, maybe this is not too far fetched considering our reckless consumption behavior.. but definitely not how I want the future to be. (well, intricate hand craft for electronics, YES!) The crying dress is not what I imagine what people will be wearing in the funeral of their loved ones.

    The other end of the eTextile/wearables development now is a very practical, functional ones. From health care to the extension of your smartwatch.. something that can appear in the kickstarter website tomorrow. In these project, “what is it for?” and “How much pledge does it receive” plays a big role in its design concept, I feel. These are the wearables of today, and of reality.

    But I wonder, can one think of a design of eTextile/wearables that is still speculative in future, and something you can imagine to wear?
    The name of “wearables” (or better wearable technology) suggests a technology you “can wear”. But what about a technology you “wear” or you “want to wear”? I wonder what is the technology I wear in future, and how I would design them…

    I recently had a nice chat with Afroditi Psarra talking about speculative design, design fiction and science fiction, as she is a big reader of science fiction and she wrote her Doctoral thesis on cyberpunk and technology art. Perhaps Design Fiction (where Speculative Design and Critical design comes as sub category) has its role as the Science Fiction does in literature. It is not about predicting the future, but uses the resource now to speculate the society in future where fictional story take place. The story could be entertaining, disturbing or thought provoking.. but it does reflect the current status quo in one way or another.

    Then I read this article by Ebru Kurbak and Irene Posch on the discussion between Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin.
    http://www.stitchingworlds.net/study/literature-in-other-worlds-by-margaret-atwood/

    Well, is Design Fiction same as the Speculative Fiction of Atwood, as “things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books”? When thinking of Critical Design, I hope it never come to the real, although technically it is possible.

    Then there is a excerpt from nice comment by Bruce Sterling explaining what he calls as Slipstream Fiction: “This isn’t SF, but it sure ain’t mainstream and I think you might like it, okay?”

    Do we need fantasy? or reality? is it a speculative truth in the future? or a critical talk about the future to change?



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