Etech 2008: Fictional futures

"Fictional futures" by Matt Webb. Matt discussed his favorite concepts from science fiction because he likes to take the ideas in the science fiction and take them back to the everyday, inspire product design. To him, scifi is good to identify things that falls into the same metaphor species as design: "I don't make a distinction between scifi and reality". So, some examples he described:

  1. One favorite is moving cities: kim stanley robinson's "meanwhile the city slid over us..." + archigram's walking city + cedric price (the aviary at London Zoo). What does that mean? what would that be to live in a moving city? How would that change our conditions?
  2. another is the moon: Italo Calvino's cosmicomics: story of a sort-of second moon (Cruithne). Why this is interesting? think about what would it be like to live on a city like on the second moon? What would the everyday be like on that planet that have a 385 orbit?
  3. show lots of pictures of stars... that inspire him to design lightcone "a constantly updating list of all the stars that have been enveloped by your own personal lightcone". You can subscribe to your own lightcone.
  4. Still about stars, Lacerta is in Greg Egan’s book Diaspora. Impressive descriptions that helps the thing to be more true (and more believable to him than Gibon's descriptions in Neuromancer). What is the lesson here? It means that features outside of the main story are necessary for believability and for people to accept the narrative into their lives. It inspired him that design.
  5. How low-level physics affect spatial patterns (in Greg Egan's Diaspora): separation of output and input, what you can grasp/reach versus what you can see and touch. In Second Life, your character is your output but you can move your viewpoint... which is weird, you can't do that in physical reality. SL is a world where you can move a camera separated from the body. That's an interesting design issue.
  6. Slow species: creatures that live over a huge period of time (orion nebula) as seen in Olaf Stapledon’s book, Star Maker or in Diaspora by Greg Egan. Implications for design: what would it mean to think at a speed where it takes thousands of years just for a signal to pass from one side of your mind to the other? What about slow communication?
  7. Shows lots of examples of network and closed systems: Birthday of the World (by Ursula Le Guin), people who spend 6th generation to reach a star: they live in a close system, what does that mean? contained space, they’ve no idea what shoes are—their world is carpeted. There’s no disease, no concept of going outside. The novel is about what religion does arise out of this? this is important because our planet needs to be thought as a closed system. Would Discovery, Le Guin’s generation ship, feel like Catalhoyuk, an old sumerian city that has NO STREETS (to get to your house, you had to climb up on top of the city). The web had no street at the beginning: no search engine, etc.