In Between Utopia and Dystopia

Using the Language of Design to Imagine Possible Technological Futures

DAY ONE Utopia Dystopia
PART 1Looking at the Ways Art and Design Effect Science and Technology

Often Art, Design, and Pop-Culture are viewed as seperate from The Sciences and Academia. In Part 1 of today's lesson, were going to look at the ways the worlds of Art and Science are not seperate, how they influence eachother, and think about why it might be useful to consider the complexity of their relationship.

I want to convince you that seperating Art and Science into distinct categories does not necessarily reflect an essential nature of the two bodies of knowledge, and by thinking of them as seperate, we limit the potential of both. We begin to build that seperation into the way we work as either scientists or artists. One of the clearest examples of this compartmentalized thinking can be seen in the ways we talk about our own brains.

LEFT Mercedes Benz ad from February 2011 showing an illustration of the idea that our left brain hemisphere is logical and mathematical while our right brain is creative and sensual. RIGHT An illustration extendeing the myth of the left brain right brain to include the notion that men are logical, while women are creative and nurturing.

The images above illustrate the differences between the left hemisphere of the brain and the right hemisphere of the brain. We often say that someone is left-brained, or right-brained to mean that they're either logical and scientific, or artistic and creative. This idea is a myth that has recently been proven wrong by several neuroscientific studies. MORE INFO

In reality, there is no convenient and clean way that categories of thought can be attributed to one side or the other. Whether you're doing a math equation, painting a picture, writing a poem, or writing a research paper, cognition is distributed over many different areas of your brain. Our actions are the products of complex interactions between many parts of the brain.

The same can be said of the distinct categories or cultural production and scientific production. They are messy, overlapping, influenced by, and influencing eachother. Scientists go home and watch movies and television. They are guided by cultural norms and value systems just like the rest of us. Correspondingly, Artists and Designers use new technologies in their everyday lives and in their artmaking practices, their belief systems--the underlying values that guide their creative pursuits--are effected by popular science. Scientific theories and experimentation lead to technologies such as the internet, airplanes, gps, and satellite images that radically shift the way we interact with eachother and the world -- thus effecting the way we design products and make artwork.

It's often more difficult to see the ways in which Art influences the Sciences. Science produces physical technologies which are absorbed into artistic practice. This action is tangible and concrete, and can be observed and measured more easily. Art has a physical form - but acts psychologically, to inspire, incite emotional responses, and incite new modes of thinking. It changes the world by affecting thoughts, values, and passions in seemingly intangible ways.

Three Specific Examples of Art//Design Affecting the Trajectory of Science

  1. 1Innovation driven by the entertainment industry crosses over into military and tech applications.

    Air Force officials have consulted with several reality tv editors including Timothy Snell (who worked on Jersey Shore) to find solutions for military surveilance operations. Working under the assumption that Reality TV Control Rooms and Air Force Ground Stations have similar goals, such as culling through hundreds of hours of monotonous footage to find moments when key events occur, a report was written up on what Military Surveilance can learn from the entertainment industry. Read More

    LEFT Illustration of the reality tv control room format to be replicated in Air Force Ground Stations taken from the Rand Corporation's report. RIGHT A CIA Drone control room as depicted by the popular tv show Homeland.

  2. 2New Technologies and Processes Developed through Artistic Exploration

    In 2003, the artist collective "Tissue Culture and Art Project" held a public event to reveal their victemless meat. The meat, which was grown in a laboratory petri-dish, was eaten by one of the artists at the event. Because the meat was grown by culturing and incubating muscle cells, it eliminates the need to kill an animal for meat, as well as the accompanying ethical issues. Inspired by the project, several teams of scientists have been working on developing new methods of mass producing, and flavoring lab grown meats. Read More

    LEFT Designer James King's imagning of how lab grown proteins might be modified to look more appealing in the future. RIGHT Victemless Meat, muscle tissue cultured in a lab apart from an animal body, developed by the Tissue Culture and Art Project.

  3. 3Scientists Inspired by Artist's Imaginings of Future Tech

    There are several documented cases of scientists who site television shows, movies, and literature as the inspirations for their inventions.

    In 1973, inventor of the cell phone Martin Cooper made the first publicised cell phone call from a hand held device. He later acknowledged that Star Trek had inspired him to develop the technology. Specifically, Martin was sited a prop introduced into the show in 1966 called the "communicator." Read More

    LEFT Star Trek's "Star Communicator" which according to Martin Cooper, inspired him to invent the first cellular tellephone. RIGHT A picture of Martin Cooper with his invention -- the cell phone.

    In a 2014 special report on robotics the Economist Magazine said, "Robot researchers are keenly aware of the fictional foundations of their work. ...Any visit to a Japanese robot laboratory soon leads to a discussion about Astro Boy, the helpful android who in the 1960's starred in Japans first popular animated television show to help explain the country's rampant robophilia."
    Economist Special Report

    LEFT In image of Astroboy. RIGHT A humanoid child-like robot deveoloped by a team of scientists at Osaka University in Japan.

    In July 2010, a Scientific Research Society called Sigma Xi released a study entitled "Did Science Fiction Influence You?" In which they asked prominent scientists to respond to the question. The overwhelming majority of responses show that science fiction can inspire a sense of wonder, promote an attitude of imagination and creativity, and create an awareness of other scientific disciplines.Access the study here

PART 2Looking at Predictions of the Future in Pop Culture

In Part 2, we'll look at predictions of technological futures in pop culture, and map them onto a Utopic//Dystopic spectrum. The spectrum can also include current or historical design examples which could be considered either Utopic or Dystopic.

DAY TWO Product Design, Lifestyle Design, Social Design
PART 1Class Overview +++ The Position of the Industrial Designer in the Production Line

Industrial Designers occupy a specific position in the process of production in our society -- which comes with a set of freedoms and restraints to the creative process. In Part 1, we'll focus on mapping out and visually understanding the interactions between science, engineering, and design that lead up to the birth of a consumer product.

PART 2New Movements in Design : The Power of the Designer

In response to the limitations of the designer's power in conventional design positions, many designers have found alternative ways of working that allow them more freedom. In Part 2, we'll discuss one of these movements called "Speculative Design" and look at some of the projects that have come out of it.

Radical Design in the 1960's and the Shift to Consumer Design.

During the 1960's and 70's there were several movements of "Radical Design." Designers were using their craft to stimulate social dialogue and effect change. According to Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby:

...key changes have happened since the high point of radical design in the 1970s that make imaginative, social, and political speculation today more difficult and less likely ...during the 1980s design became hyper-commercialized to such an extent that alternative roles for design were lost. Socially oriented designers such as Victor Papanek who were celebrated in the 1970s were no longer regarded as interesting; they were seen as out of sync with design's potential to generate wealth and to provide a layer of designer gloss to every aspect of our daily lives.

In response to the "hyper-commercialization" of design, many in the field are again looking for ways to reinvigorate the dialogue and create new movements. One of these movements is Speculative Design.

Speculative Design as Defined by Auger Loizeau:

Speculative design combines informed, hypothetical extrapolations of an emerging technology's development with a deep consideration of the cultural landscape into which it might be deployed, to speculate on future products, systems and services. These speculations are then used to examine and encourage dialogue on the impact a specific technology may have on our everyday lives. The familiar and engaging nature of the designed output is intended to facilitate discourse with a broad audience: from experts in the field such as scientists, engineers and designers to the consumers and users of technological products and systems.

Five Specific Examples of Speculative Design

  1. 1The Tissue Culture and Art Project's Victemless Leather

    Exploring potential applications of Synthetic Biology-- a Borderland Science-- The Tissue Culture and Art Project developed synthetic leather by culturing animal skin cells in an incubator and growing them into the shape of a jacket. The project eliminates the need to skin a living animal, but also questions our notions of what is alive, what is conscious, and what constitutes violence.

    LEFT A small shirt being grown in an incubator designed to grow victemless leather. RIGHT A shirt made from victemless leather.

  2. 2E. Chromi, developed by designer Daisy Ginsberg in conjunction with the 2009 IGEM Caimbridge team.

    E. Chromi is the product of collaborations between designers Daisy Ginsberg, James King, and a group of 7 undergraduate Synthetic Biology students at Caimbridge University. The imagines a future product that uses technologies predicted to come out of the borderland science of synthetic biology. The product is a yogurt drink containing genetically modified e.coli bacteria that produce colored pigments in response to specific toxins and markers of disease. After conusming the drink, the user can examine their poop for pigment that might indicate that they're sick. E.Chromi's Website

    LEFT Designer James King's imagning of how lab grown proteins might be modified to look more appealing in the future. RIGHT Victemless Meat, muscle tissue cultured in a lab apart from an animal body, developed by the Tissue Culture and Art Project.

  3. 3Kevin Grinnan's Series, The Smell of Control: Fear, Focus, Trust

    In his series of illustrations titled The Smell of Control designer Kevin Grinnan imagines how human pheremones might be used to create the feeling of trust in humans being operated on. The illustrations depict several present day, industrial robots, outfitted with sweat glands which excrete the pheremones. In one drawing, a surgical robot is outfitted with a gland that excretes Oxytocine to induce trust in patients before they undergo a procedure. Kevin Grinnan's Website

    LEFT A surgical robot outfitted with Oxytocine secreting glands to induce feelings of trust and comfort in patients throughout procedures. RIGHT A military robot outfitted with a gland secreating fear inducing phermones.

  4. 4Patrick Stevenson-Keating's Quantum Parallelograph

    Patrick Stevenson-Keating's Quantum Parallelograph is a product designed, speculating on future technological developments driven by quantum physics. Based off of current theories about multiverses, the machine would allow it's user to turn a dial to tune in to and learn about their lives in parallel universes, enabling a person to explore what it would be like if they were a different gender, a celebrity, a jellyfish, etc. Studio PSK

    LEFT Image of the Quantum Parallelograph. RIGHT An image of the tickets printouts that describe what you're doing in the parallel universe you tune the dial to.

  5. 5Sputniko's Menstruation Machine

    From Sputniko's website:
    The Menstruation Machine – fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and electrodes simulating the lower abdomen – simulates the pain and bleeding of a 5 day menstruation process.

    The music video features a Japanese transvestite boy Takashi, who one day chooses to wear 'Menstruation' in an attempt to biologically dress up as a female, being unsatisfied by just aesthetically appearing female. He builds and wears the machine to fulfill his desire to understand what the period feels like for his female friends. The music video was posted on Youtube to trigger reaction from a wide audience outside of the traditional gallery environment. The video was immediately posted on influential blogs including Wired, Gizmodo and Boing Boing, and the story of Takashi’s desire to have menstruation created a viral frenzy of debates, resulting in 100000 Youtube hits in mere one week. Sputniko's Website

    LEFT Photograph of Takashi, a trans boy, wearing the Menstruation Machine. RIGHT A close up of the hardware inside the Menstruation Machine.

DAY THREE Science on the Borders of Reality: Research Topics
PART 1Borderland Sciences and Developing Technologies

Yesterday we looked at the interactions between science, engineering, and design that lead up to the birth of a product. We also looked at the borderlands that lay between scientific theory and technological reality. In Part 1 of today, we'll look at these scientific borderlands depicted in movies and prepare to pick an area for independent research.

Scientific Borderlands Scientific Borderlands are areas of science still in an experimental phase: somewhere in between Scientific Theory and Technological Reality. They are areas that, when introduced into everyday life as consumer technologies could have radical effects on the way we live, eat, communicate, percieve, etc.

PART 2Borderland Sciences Research Portal

Listed below are links to recent discoveries in the areas of science we've discussed. In Part 2 of today, we'll be browsing these links to find scientific principles and concepts we could base our speculative designs off of. Our goal is for everyone to select a scientific principle by the end of the day. Tomorrow we'll focus on designing the aesthetics of our products.

Create a Padlet on your account so that you can compile images, articles, and ideas that interest you. When you decide on one concept, post an image or article link to the padlet below along with your name, and explination.

DAY FOUR Design Research and Product Design
PART 1Design Research : Compiling Influences and Resources

In part 1 of today, were going to focus on gathering materials to inspire our design, and reference when sketching and modeling. Make a new padlet on your account so that you can compile relevent images and links you discover. Post a link to your padlet on the board below.

PART 2Product Design

In part 2 of today, we'll design our product. Begin by sketching thumbnails to explore different possible forms for your concept. After sketching thumbs, decide on one iteration to draw from 4 different angles: top view, side view, 3/4 view, and detail views. Dont worry about making it perfect--that's what sketchup is for--this is simply to help visualize it in 3Dimensions, and lock down the design.

Final sketches including multiple views of a single form

DAY FIVE Modeling in Sketchup
PART 1Sketchup Resources

Today we'll be working independantly in sketchup to model our Products. Below are some tutorials, starting with an introduction to sketchup, beginner skills, and moving into more advanced skills.

Intro to Sketchup

17 minute long introduction for first time Sketchup users: 12 minute continuation of the above introduction to Sketchup:

Inferencing and Shortcuts

Video on Sketchup's "inferencing" system--How to interpret a 3D space represented on a 2D surface: 10 Sketchup shortcuts to speed up navigation: More shortcuts + adding your own shortcut keys:

PART 23D Warehouse

Because some of your ideas are complex and we only have 3 days to dedicate to modeling, it might be helpful to download pre-existing models and modify them to fit your concept. There are several online communities where people post things they've made under creative-commons licenses so that anyone can re-use them.

By clicking the "Get Models" button in your Sketchup toolbar, you can search google's 3D warehouse and download models directly into your workspace. You can also go to Google's 3D Warehouse in a web-browser, download an item, and then import it into Sketchup.

Thingiverse is another good source of free downloadable 3D models. These models are only availible in .stl format. If you want to import them into Sketchup, you'll need to download and install the Sketchup STL plugin.

DAY SIX Modeling in Sketchup
PART 1Feedback and New Approaches

Each of you have unique ideas and goals which will require different approaches. After reviewing your concepts, and design research, I've compiled some suggestions and resources specific to each. Find the link listed under your name in the padlet below to review suggestions before starting today.

PART 2Additional Sketchup Resources

Today we'll be working on the Sketchup files we began yesterday. Below are some additional resources to help with advanced techniques such as creating and adding custom textures and images to your models.

The video below with explain how to map images onto both flat, and curved faces of your sketchup models.

The video explains the difference between a projected texture and a non-projected texture.

DAY SEVEN Material Properties with Maxwell
PART 1Using Maxwell's Material Properties
PART 2Uploading your Files for Rendering

Below is a list of what files I've recieved from who. Check your name, if I havn't recieved either your writing, Sketchup files, or labeled screenshot you can email them to me as attachments at:

DAY EIGHT Exporting and Writing
PART 1Exporting with Maxwell for Sketchup

In Part 1 of today, we'll be exporting our final images using the Maxwell for Sketchup plugin. We'll learn to tweak, lighting, background, and atmospheric conditions in the Maxwell interface to achieve a desired result. Exported images can then be taken into Photoshop to be collaged with other materials.

PART 2Speculative Narratives: Describing your Product

Writing about your design is an essential part of telling it's story. In part 2 of today, we'll look at two different approaches you could take to imagine and convey the speculated culture that your design would exist in.

Together, we have created a set of parallel worlds. Worlds where emotions can be visualized by homone detecting cameras, where same sex couples can conceive in the privacy of their own homes, and where multiverses can be printed out and viewed like diarammas. The visuals we've created in Sketchup and Photoshop help to bring your ideas into the realm of the real. By reflecting on these images, we can now try to imagine through writing what scenarios might come about because of these artifacts of possibility.

Below are two suggested approaches to writing about your design:

Narrative Short Story

Imagine a future scenario in which your product plays a role, and write a 2 paragraph (or more) short story. What is the everyday experience of someone who uses your product?

EXAMPLE Narrative Short Story Writing Sample

Here are some questions that you could use as starting points:

Where would you buy this product?

Who uses your product, is it a for a specific group of people, or is it used across the spectrum of society.

Who invented your product, and what motivated them?

Did your product emerge from a culture that was accepting of the ideas and ethics it embodies, or is it controversial. Did people have to fight for it's acceptance into society?

Is it affordable for most people, or is it a luxury item. Is it a status symbol? Are people who use it stigmatized or stereotyped in a certain way?

Does it have unseen effects on the environment, on the people who use it, or the places it's manufactured?

What waste does it produce, how is it disposed of?

What beneficial effects does it have on it's users, or on society in general?

Academic Text or News Article

This approach involves imagining yourself as a future Historian//Academic, or future Journalist. By taking one of these positions, you can write about your product as if you are researching it's history, or reporting a newsworthy event that it caused.

EXAMPLE News Article Writing Sample EXAMPLE Academic Text Writing Sample

Here are some questions to prompt your writing:

Is there some controversy surrounding your product that's being reported on?

Did it's inventor win an award for their work on the product?

What scientific discoveries enabled the creation of this technology?

Is the product being recalled because of some defect or an unforeseen side effect?

Are there activist groups that are protesting, or lobbying against the use of your product?

Does your product affect warfare, policing, or surveillence issues?

Is your product sold legally, or traded underground on the black market?

Does your product affect a major historical event?

Lillith : YR 2023

A warm pink glow emanated from Lillith's chest, and forehead, pulsing down her body in waves, fading into trails of purple and violet and green. Like a thick fog, it emanated off of her skin and dissipated into the black silence around her as she stood pointing her iPhone towards the bathroom mirror. On the bus, an hour later, she was still entranced by the scene, watching it for what was probably the 18th time. Pulling her eyes from the screen, she gazed out the window and avoided the fidgety woman next to her. She knew she was in love with Jancarlo for weeks, but this felt different now. Her hormone signature was undeniable. The image of her own body in love made her want to scream, jump up out of her seat and tell everyone what she had. It was real, and she could prove it to everyone. She wondered if anyone else had found her out through their own Hormoculous. Imagning someone sitting behind her, camera trained on her seat, watching in amazement. She texted Jancarlo, not knowing what else to do.

Lillith: Hey, what are you up to?? I want to show you something!

10 seconds went by, and the bus came to a stop sign. Lillith tapped her feet excitedly. Soft swish sounds wove a blanket of noise as people shifted around the waterproof nylon bus seats. 30 seconds past, listening hard for an alert from her phone, Lillith only heard the bodies shifting around her. Other phones set off like the sound of raindrops landing in random patterns around her. Irritated Lillith's mind involuntarily produced an image of Jancarlo laughing with his supervisor Maryam. Needing a distraction, she trained her camera on the bus window in search of her reflection, but could only see the signatures of the weeds lining the road. Her camera's Hormoculus Self Assessment Technology wasn't calibrated to detect plant hormones, so they just looked like flickering blue and white silhouettes.

The Historical Development of The Hormoculous Self Assessment Technology: The events leading up to it's consumer release

Hormoculous Camera Systems are used extensively today, as an at home diagnostic tool for mental and physical health. The cameras, which use remote hormone sensing technologies allow users to visualize physical/emotional state of any living organism within the viewfinder. Initially invented by military engineer, Misha Lopez in late 2016, the cameras were used extensively by the CIA for 2 years before being brought to the public's attention. During this time, several experimental drones were outfitted with the cameras, and used to detect potential terror threats in public areas. The cameras achieved this by scanning crowds for the heightened anger and anxiety signatures characteristic of a terrorist prior to an attack. Upon finding that the system was not accurate enough, the CIA determined the method to be unsuccessful and decommissioned it. Despite this failure, and the public unrest resulting from unwarranted interrogations of overly stressed people, Hormoculous testing continued. Being deployed in high-stakes interrogation scenarios, the technology yielded monumental successes. Many respected Academics attribute the end of the Trans-Atlantic War to intelligence that was gathered using Hormoculous. In the interrogation room, the camera system allowed CIA personel to monitor a subjects emotional responses to questions second to second. Because the camera system did not require any sensors to be worn by the subject, those being interrogated had no idea their hormonal state was being monitored. This gave the interrogator a competitive edge, providing cues on when to prod further, when to hold back, and when to use specific enhanced interrogation tactics. By the time the system came to the attention of human rights groups and liberal think tanks, it had successfully been used to dismantle several nodes of the ISIS, arguably saving thousands of lives. Despite public outrage, and fears of abusive state power, congress determined the technology too valuable to ban from use. It was not until September of 2021 that Apple Corporation's lawyers silently won the battle for re-use of the technology in consumer goods. In 2023, with the release of the iPhone 16, the technology was re-introduced to the public as Hormoculus Self Assesment Technology.

Apple Releases New Technology that could Revolutionize the Healthcare Industry

By LOPETA LAURENTZ Dec. 14th 2023

Last night at Apple's Press release, Steve Nkalou announced the release of the new iPhone 16, who's updated optics system is outfitted with the unprecedented Hormoculous Self Assessment Technology. The controversial hormone detection camera, detects and visualizes hormones and pheromones. It then produces images similar to those of a thermal camera, mapping hormone concentrations as color ranges. The technology was previously reserved exclusively for Military Surveilance and Drone Operations, where it was used to detect potential terror threats in crowds by searching for heightened levels of anger or anxiety. It was also used with great success to guide questioning during interrogations. The release of the system to the general public will, according to Nkalou, "enable iPhone users to self asses their mental and physical state with the touch of a button. Apple users can now connect to themselves and each other in ways never imagined possible. Through Biometrics, we will revolutionize medical diagnosis, crowd source treatment options, and re-design America's medical system from the ground up!" Nkalou's speech maintained a hopeful tone and was received with great enthusiasm, despite criticism from privacy advocacy groups who believe the technology has great potential for misuse.