Fact, fiction, form & foretelling

We use critical speculation to craft design objects to creatively develop innovative methods addressing wicked problems.

This page invites fellow crafters, critics, policymakers and scientists to learn from our experiment by investigating, challenging and learning from this methodology.

We encourage everyone to embark on their own speculative learning journeys and work with the three pillars of Speculative Design ― SCIENCE FICTION, SCIENCE FACTION & SCIENCE ACTION ― and use the impact of speculation to come up with other findings that can help us towards better futures. 


Includes:
+ Journey Map
+ Learning Methodology
+ Process visualisation
+ Workshop design general planning

Speculative Design works in the space between the arrogance of science fact, and the seriously playful imaginary of science fiction, making things that are both real and fake, but aware of the irony of the muddle — even claiming it as an advantage.

― Julian Bleecker

The best way to learn from this learning methodology is to understand the concrete learning experiment that took place with the Design and Maker students from Vallekilde Højskole. The whole learning experiment was centred around the topic of climate change through the lens of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 was brought in as a lens of learning because the pandemic 

  • Is a global phenomenon that has touched all of mankind; and
  • Compelled every single person to act by wearing masks, staying inside, reduce social interactions; which
  • Has given the crisis a manifestation as all people can see the direct and indirect effects of the virus 

These elements can be said to form essential ‘ingredients’ to cope with climate change as the crisis is as much (if not more) urgent, impactful and devastating. But climate change is an intangible phenomenon; its effects are not vividly seen around the world; and for most people, it doesn’t produce obvious solutions to combat the crisis. 

We, therefore, hypothesised that COVID-19 offered an unexpected learning experience to fight climate change, and we sought out to co-investigate the following research question with the Vallekilde Højskole students: 

How might we learn from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to tackle climate change?

Why speculative design

Speculative Design, also known as critical design or design fiction, is a praxis that compels the designer to question the implications of her design and to speculate about alternative futures by producing artefacts that critically communicates given phenomena such as privacy, food scarcity or climate change to ignite reflection and spark debate.





The following section lays out essential frameworks and tools for speculative design experiments.

The Process overview displays the different steps of the learning experiment and serves as the structure of the learning experiment. It will help other educators to try out their own experiments. To understand each step of the process download the toolkit.

Workshop design

The illustration consists of a number of elements where each day is broken into two parts (morning, afternoon) where the red line, which opens in the mornings and closes in the afternoons, represents the diverging & converging mindset known from Design Thinking.

  • Each day is given a headline with an overall theme (day 1: speculate; day 2: conceptualise; day 3: build). The headline helps the students understand the days’ mode and what specific purpose is intended each day.
  • Moreover, each part of the day is tied to a mindset (e.g. motivation, or inspiration) and a question that attempts to answer the likely experience the students sit with (e.g. what’s in it for me? How can we do it?).
  • Lastly, the red icons represent the activities during the learning experiment which also gives the sense that the days are well-structured and planned in advance to enable the desired outcome.

3F-Manual

Function | Form | Feeling

Going from speculative questions to speculative objects can be a black box

  • Why do we speculate?
  • How do we embody ideas?
  • Who do we want to address?


The 3F-manual operationalises brainstorming into prototyping by working around three design modes:

|Form ― How it looks

|Function ― How it works

|Feeling ― How it feels

Modus Dimention Detail Guiding question
Function
How it works
Application Product?
Installation?
Experience?
Service?
Wearable?
What is it?
How do you interact with it?
Purpose Satisfaction?
Relieve? Nutrition?
Awareness?
What does the user try to achieve/avoid with this?
What are the actions and reasons behind them?
Form
How it looks
Materials / Texture Soft? Firm?
Sticky?
What do materials communicate?
Color / Shape Bright? Dark?
Round? Square?
What does the colour and shape communicate?
Feeling
How it feels
User / Receiver Rich / Poor?
Old / young?
West / East?
Who is involved in the object?
What kind of person/object would interact with this?
Narrative/ Scenery Dystopia / Utopia?
Future? Everyday?
What story is the object trying to tell?
What does it address?
What does it critique?

Performance framework | Skills & Attitudes

What needed skills can be drawn from this particular learning experiment?

The performance framework showcases central competencies, attitudes and supporting enablers that were brought into play in this learning experiment. 

The framework will help interested in preparing for similar experiments. We invite people to learn from, challenge and supplement the framework.

Performance Framework | Skills & Attitudes
Factors Skills Dimensions Particular Learning Experience
KEY
COMPETENCES
Professional competency Understand the pedagogical role of Speculative Design Speculative Design as a design method for criticising and reflecting with materials
Technological competency Setup digital template for teaching & brainstorming purposes Online collaborative whiteboard platform
Setup presentation material for teaching purposes PowerPoint-presentations
Facilitation Competency Social presence Guide them individually & collectively through the process
Articulating individual perspective Individual experiences with COVID-19 and climate change
Accomodating or reflecting the perspectives of others Connecting individual experiences with others to find similarities to learn from
Co-constructing shared perspectives and meanings Asking What If-Questions as Speculative Design Prototypes
Evaluation Competency Defining evaluation purposes and design Prepare online questionnaire (Google Forms) to harvest the learnings
Evaluation approaches and methods to analyse the data Making sense of replies from participants
KEY
ATTITUDES
Purpose Aspire to a shared understanding of purpose Speak to the purpose (what are we trying to learn?)
Professional Engagement Sustain high level of workflow by breaking day into small chunks of (blended) activities Presentation, check-ins, individual work, group work, building session, reflection session, evaluation session, energizers
SUPPORTING
ENABLERS
Motivation Motivated learners
Craft Practicing craft Participants were eager to practice their different design practices
LEARNING
APPROACH
Experience -driven learning Concrete experiences lead to a speculative materialisation; first through a reflective observation and secondly through an abstract conceptualization. Experience > Observation > Conceptualisation > Materialisation
Maker-driven learning Apply information to making Speculative Objects Speculative Objects as a result of an experience-driven process
INSTITUTIONAL
CHALLENGES
Time Limited time to introduce, setup, facilitate and evaluate learning experiment 3x five hours in total
Space Spatial frame(s) to support presentation, group work, computer-based education, makerspace The workshop required a space for communicative activities & a space for building activities
(Cost of) Materials A minimum amount of materials are required to build objects. Materials and equipment for Speculative Objects

Learnings

Throughout the learning experiment, the hypothesis was confirmed based on a few crucial findings discovered during the experiment through observation, conversation with the participants, as well as a questionnaire filled up by the students evaluating their experiences as an aftermath of the experiment.

First of all, by introducing the method of speculative design to students, their traditional understanding of design as giving a form to particular user needs shifted towards a more critical mindset of asking questions and starting conversations around urgent matters. With this first transformational aspect

it was easier for students to start their reflections both around COVID-19 and climate change on a personal level based on their own experiences, followed by a more abstract level of understanding situations as hyper objects, which finally led to deeper comprehension of climate change.

Second of all, by drawing upon students’ own experiences of both crises, the relational approach was built helping them to immerse in the learning process even deeper. Students had a personal stake in their project and by choosing their own theme of work, they could ask the questions that matter for them and build objects that they felt are urgent for the world. In that way, students not only felt that their decisions matter, but also could dedicate their skills and knowledge to questioning problems that they perceived as relevant.

Importantly, when students were asked about the experience of partaking in the experiment, they emphasised the ability it gave them to not only comprehend both of the crises on a deeper level, but even started asking questions why so little is being done at the moment to tackle climate change. Even though at first, they admitted that they could not observe connections themselves between both crises, as an aftermath of the workshop they did not only notice similarities and differences, but also reflected on what could be the ways to prevent climate change more concretely by imagining alternative forms of living through conceptualised objects.