The emergence of the coronavirus and attendant COVID-19 disease has exerted untold change on every financial system, industry and community on Earth. At the time of writing, around 491,000 people have died from over nine million confirmed cases. Huge numbers of the global workforce are unemployed, with many jobs predicted not to return. Cities have scrambled to adjust, introducing new coping mechanisms around hygiene and social interactions. Lives have been irrevocably changed in the space of a few months.
Design Fiction is a technique pioneered by the Near Future Laboratory which helps explore, understand and ultimately prepare for the future. In periods of massive change this work becomes increasingly useful but increasingly complex.
Design Fiction works by presenting slightly skewed versions of normality in order to provoke debate and discussion, but in recent months our common understanding of ‘normal’ has dissolved. Volatility abounds, months of change happen in days. Previously unfathomable truths emerge: rivers run clean, the sky over Beijing turns blue, cities close down. Innovation and opportunism pile into the void left by this catastrophe, wrecking our collective understanding of the status quo, making it harder to notice subtle changes.
This blurry line between fantasy and reality is what we aim to explore here. The following pages present real observations alongside provocative Design Fictions – truth alongside fabrication.
Design Fiction treads a fine line between archetypal reality and speculation, but when reality changes daily, where are we to start? Archetypes take time to solidify and embed themselves in culture. As practitioners of exploratory futures, we feel we have a responsibility to examine this relationship, and to explore our collective recalibration.
Published in June 2020.