Aesthetics of Unreality
How do you design for unreality, and what should it look like? How should the unreal, parallel, impossible, unknown, and yet-to-exist be represented? And how, in a design, can you simultaneously capture the real and not-real? This is where the aesthetic challenge for speculative design lies, in successfully straddling both. Fall on either side and the frisson, the tension is lost.
Proposals are closer to literature than social science, emphasizing imagination over practicality, they ask questions rather than provide answers. To be effective, they need to contain contradictions and cognitive glitches. Rather than offering an easy way forward, they highlight dilemmas and trade-offs between imperfect alternatives. Not a solution, not a “better” way, just another way.
If our belief systems and ideas don’t change, then reality won’t change either.
Fiona Raby is Professor of Design and Emerging Technology at The New School in New York, and Fellow at the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography & Social Thought (GIDEST-NSSR). Between 2011-2015 she was professor of Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. She was Reader in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, London (2011-2015), where she taught in Architecture, Computer Related Design and Design Interactions, from 1995-2015. She is a partner in the design studio Dunne & Raby.
She is co-author, with Anthony Dunne, of Design Noir (2001) and Speculative Everything (2013). Projects include Technological Dream Series, No 1: Robots (2007), Designs For An Over Populated Planet: Foragers (2010), The United Micro Kingdoms (2013), and The School of Constructed Realities (2015). Their work has been exhibited at MoMA in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the Design Museum in London, and is in several permanent collections including MoMA, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts. Dunne & Raby received the inaugural MIT Media Lab Award in 2015.