A lot of my practice focuses on the design of situations and stuff from the future to catalyse insight and change: Experiential Futures. This involves using interactions, artifacts and games to contribute to collective foresight, imagination, and (where possible) wisdom. To these ends I also devise frameworks for others to use, in ways and contexts chosen by them.

Here is a selection of work in various media.


U.S. Earth Force (commissioned artwork)

The Institute for the Future and the World Bank Climate Investment Funds selected a number of artists to explore climate action through the year 02030.

I chose to investigate: What happens when the world's richest and most powerful country puts its full weight behind efforts to address climate disruption?

Positing a hypothetical sixth branch of the American military, United States Earth Force, established in 02029, part of my curiosity was in examining how a belated full-court press might be positioned in the culture, balanced on a tightrope between planet-centric values and military messaging.

The very ordinary idiom of a billboard-based advertising campaign seemed an ideal, unassuming way to evoke some major developments and invite consideration of their implications. I took all these photographs in Pittsburgh within a few minutes' walk of home.

Originally commissioned and created in 02018, the series of U.S. Earth Force images was shared with the public on Earth Day 02020. The full series, with acknowledgements, appears in a post on Medium.


The Thing From The Future (card game)

I designed this award-winning imagination game together with Professor Jeff Watson from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. It was published by the outfit that we co-direct, Situation Lab. The game was an Official Selection for the Indiecade games festival, one of 36 from over 1000 submissions.

Situation Lab also made a bilingual French/English version for the 9th UNESCO World Youth Forum in Paris, and a Portuguese/English edition for the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro.

We launched a redesigned version of the game at Singularity University's Global Summit in San Francisco in August 02017, and created a special edition for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Statutory Meetings held in Turkey in November 02017.

(Photo by Stuart Candy.)

The Thing From The Future has featured at dozens of events on five continents, including Maker Festival Toronto, Amplify Sydney, FutureFest London, and the annual UNDP strategy meeting in New York. It has also been played in countless classrooms around the world from MIT Media Lab to Stanford d.School, Parsons Mumbai, and the National University of Singapore.

We have also run design jams using the game as an ideation engine. "Futurematic" was a joint project of Situation Lab and The Extrapolation Factory, held at OCAD University in Toronto, in which 30 participants filled up a vending machine with artifacts from the future in one day.

A second Situation Lab / Extrapolation Factory collaboration, held at New York University's ITP Camp, saw participants use the game to create street vendor merchandise from the future, before heading down to Canal Street and Broadway in Manhattan to put their future wares on sale.

More about The Thing From The Future; stories in Forbes and Kill Screen.


NaturePod (design fiction and guerrilla intervention)

I directed this experiential scenario about humanity's changing relationship with our environment, staged at one of North America's largest architecture and design trade shows.

(Photos by Connie Tsang.)

The project features in the new book Discursive Design (MIT Press, Feb 02019) by Bruce and Stephanie Tharp.

It was also recently shown as part of the exhibition Hedonism (May-Nov 02019) at MOD. in Adelaide, "Australia's leading future-focused museum".

More about NaturePod. Stories at Business Insider and Treehugger.


NurturePod (art installation)

NurturePod, a conceptual companion to NaturePod, is about the march of screens into human affairs.

It was originally commissioned for A Temporary Futures Institute, an exhibition at M HKA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, Belgium, which ran from Apr-Sept 02017.

(Photos by Stuart Candy.)

More about NurturePod. Story at VICE.


Wired: Found (recurring magazine feature)

I also work on others' experiential futures projects. Condé Nast publications engaged me as a consultant for multiple instances of Wired's long-running playful back page feature, "Found: Artifacts from the Future", edited by Chris Baker. Some examples below.

Sporting Event of the Future

Health Spa of the Future

Church of the Future

The story behind the last of these is here.


Foundfutures Chinatown (multi-scenario guerrilla futures installation, outdoors)

Guerrilla futures is a practice that long-time collaborator Jake Dunagan and I developed at the intersection of strategic foresight and tactical media, particularly through our initiative Foundfutures, noting the rarity and timidity of many official processes supposed to help people imagine and navigate change. Working this way is a response to the challenge of bringing scenarios to life in urban spaces, and other less-scripted environments, on an unsolicited basis.

Below are images from a multi-part installation created in 02007 with Dunagan and others in Chinatown, Honolulu. We spoke to residents and business owners to surface their concerns and hopes, created multiple narratives for how the neighbourhood could change, and then distributed artifacts embodying those futures in the streets for people to find. Foundfutures Chinatown culminated in a free community workshop to help interested citizens to continue exploring their possible, probable and preferred futures.

(Second last photo by Matthew Stits, others by Stuart Candy.)

More about Foundfutures Chinatown. Stories appeared in local newspaper the Honolulu Advertiser during and after the intervention: "By installing elements of their projects in the urban fabric itself, FoundFutures turns Chinatown into a movie set of sorts, approaching the level of production design that goes into films like Children of Men."


Coral Cross (alternate reality game)

Coral Cross was a game designed to help spread influenza awareness and preparedness. Originally it was planned to revolve around a hypothetical pandemic scenario, set three years into the future. Directing this project was a somewhat surreal experience because just weeks before our scheduled launch date (in 02009), there was suddenly an actual, global pandemic –– for the first time in over forty years –– H1N1 swine flu.

Our team immediately responded by retooling Coral Cross to make current events, instead of imaginary ones, the engine for public engagement.

(Graphics by Matthew Jensen, IxD by Nathan Verrill.)

Coral Cross was commissioned by the State of Hawaii Department of Health and funded by the US federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More about Coral Cross. Story at Boing Boing.


Plastic Century (interactive data dramatisation)

Plastic Century, a collaboration with Jake Dunagan, Sarah Kornfeld and Wallace J. Nichols for the California Academy of Sciences, was an installation produced during a residency at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.

It first appeared in the Academy's main hall in San Francisco on World Ocean Day in 02010, Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday. At that event, people were invited to drink from (glass and porcelain) water coolers dated 01910, 01960, 02010 and 02030, each containing quantities of plastic proportionate to the exponentially increasing amounts in the biosphere.

(Photos by Mike Estee.)

The installation was subsequently restaged at the Monterey Bay Aquarium during the BLUE Ocean Film Festival.

Story at Fast Company.

Some of my students have taken guerrilla futures practice further, through various themes of their own choosing, in projects at OCAD University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Selected writing on Experiential Futures

In December 02019 we published, through Tamkang University Press, the book Design and Futures, concluding a multi-year editing project with Cher Potter from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It includes:
Using the Future at NASA (a conversation with David Delgado from 
Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
• Critical Activism (a conversation with Anab Jain from Superflux)
I Design Worlds (a conversation with Liam Young from SCI_Arc)
• Turning Foresight Inside Out: An Introduction to Ethnographic Experiential Futures (co-authored with Kelly Kornet; and since adapted to appear in the forthcoming 02020 edition of the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies)

Other recent publications:
Backcasting, Horizon Scanning, and Design Fiction (foresight-related chapters for the revised edition of Universal Methods of Design edited by Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin)   
The School of Worldbuilding (with Jeff Watson for the MIT Press collection Bauhaus Futures edited by Laura Forlano, Molly Wright Steenson and Mike Ananny)
• Gaming Futures Literacy: The Thing From The Future (for the Routledge collection Transforming the Future edited by Riel Miller)
Dreaming Together: Experiential Futures as a Platform for Public Imagination (in Made Up: Design's Fictions edited by Tim Durfee and Mimi Zeiger)

Here's a short intro to experiential futures written for The Economist's annual The World In.

Designing an Experiential Scenario: The People Who Vanished is a peer-reviewed article co-written with Jake Dunagan for the journal Futures. It was named a Most Significant Futures Work at the annual awards of the Association of Professional Futurists

My doctoral dissertation, The Futures of Everyday Life, deals with the intersection of futures, design, and politics. The introduction lays out the fundamental motivation and key arguments informing this practice.

A bunch of other publications in PDF can be found over at ResearchGate, and there's more than a decade's worth of material (over 300 posts) to explore here at The Sceptical Futuryst, too.

Updated 27apr20.


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