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Design and the Future: Temporal politics of ‘making a difference’

Mazé, Ramia (2016) Design and the Future: Temporal politics of ‘making a difference’. In: Design Anthropological Futures. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 37-54. ISBN 9781474280600

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Mazé, Ramia

It’s difficult to know what the future holds. The future is by no means empty – it will be occupied by built environments, infrastructures and things that we have designed. It will bear the consequences of our histories, structures, policies and lifestyles, which we daily (re)produce by habit or with intent in design. The future is already loaded with our fantasies, aspirations and fears, by persuasively designed visions and cultural imaginaries. Designed things, lifestyles and imaginaries, or ‘stuff-image-skill’, endure, proliferate and occupy the future. By (re)producing things, lifestyles and imaginaries, design takes part in giving form to what will be in the future.

Discussions of the future may raise questions such as what can be known about the future and how. In design research, such epistemological questioning can become preoccupied with the nature and scope of knowledge and recourse to more established ways of relating to such questions from the natural and social sciences. However, futurity is more than an epistemological question. Contemporary philosopher Elizabeth Grosz, for example, poses a potential of futurity that is given precisely by the ontological assumption that the future is different. It is, categorically, not the past nor the present. From this perspective, futurity can be a conceptual modality through which it is possible to ask: How can things be different?

The future as different is a political as well as a philosophical question. That things can be different also raises political questions about what can, or should, change and what difference that makes. As design takes part in giving form to the future, to possible or preferred futures, we need more and critical ways of relating to issues of futurity.

In this chapter, I reflect upon issues of futurity for design. I briefly characterize ‘concept’, ‘critical’ and ‘persuasive’ design practices, because they explicitly take on the future by formulating visions, speculating on alternatives and steering toward particular ideals. While important in my own work as a practice-based design researcher, these practices expose issues that I problematize here in terms of futurity. I have (re)positioned my own work over the years, and, increasingly, in relation to futures studies and philosophies of time as illustrated here through a description of the project ‘Switch! Energy Futures’. Suggesting that futurity can be a philosophical and political modality for ‘seeing and acting’ differently in and through design, I frame two proposals to invite further work in design research and design anthropology.

Official Website: https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/design-anthropological-futures/ch3-design-and-the-future-temporal-politics-of-making-a-difference
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Bloomsbury
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: October 2016
Digital Object Identifier: 10.5040/9781474280617.ch-003
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2020 16:49
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2023 14:18
Item ID: 16164
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/16164

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