Ramia Mazé (2014) ‘Forms and Politics of Design Futures’ in Proceedings of the Architecture in Effect, Architecture in the Making and ResArc symposium (Göteborg, Apr).

"The future is not empty. The future is loaded with fantasies, aspirations and fears, with persuasive visions of the future that shape our cultural imaginaries. The future bears the consequences of historical patterns and current lifestyles, deeply rooted in our embodied skills and cultural habits. The future will be occupied by the built environments, infrastructures and things that we produce today. Many of the ‘images, skills and stuff’ which endure and matter long after are designed (Shove et al., 2007), and design, more or less intentionally, takes part in giving form to futures. Some design practices take this on intentionally and explicitly – among others, genres of ‘concept’, ‘critical’ and ‘persuasive’ design. I have (re)positioned my own practice-based design research in relation to such genres over the years, and, increasingly, in relation to futures studies, thereby inquiring into the dilemmas of futurity. This prompts me to ask, what is at stake as we take on the future in design?

In this text, I argue that design must take on temporal politics. Design futures and futures studies are typically preoccupied with questions of ‘what’ or ‘which’ future, or ‘how’ to get there, which are often reduced to methodological issues and a turn to some familiar approaches from the social sciences. However, if futurity represents an outside to the present, this may not be sufficient. Instead, I have been considering further questions and approaches. If the future represents a possibility of formulating an outside, of giving form and intervening a different socio-economic reality, it becomes a political act. From this perspective, ‘the future’ is not a destination that might be defined and reached with the right methods, but a ‘supervalence’ (Grosz, 1999), an outside to an experienced present. As such, futurity represents a possibility to establish critical distance, a distance established temporally. Critical distance may not only be established in order to reexamine the present but also to imagine, materialize, intervene and live particular alternatives. This perspective on the future changes the questions that we must ask of design and how we might do design. I trace some preliminary thoughts about the temporal politics of design futures here, pointing at some examples, to (re)frame questions at stake in my own work that may also have wider relevance for design research." (abstract)

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