Design Fiction

Over at Slate, author Bruce Sterling shares some thoughts on “design fiction“, the use of (science) fiction to imagine and explore new technology:

Slate: What’s one design fiction that people might be familiar with?
Sterling: In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the guy’s holding what’s clearly an iPad. It just really looks like one, right? This actually showed up in the recent lawsuits between Samsung and Apple. That’s kind of a successful design fiction in the sense that it’s a diegetic prototype. You see an iPad in this movie and your response is not just, “Oh, what’s that’s that?” But “That would be cool if it existed.”

Yes, yes, it’s all very interesting, but this sort of thing has been one of the roles of science fiction at least since Heinlein’s first story, Lifeline. What’s really interesting here is this video…note the cameo appearance of MAs, scroll screens, and wall screens, almost exactly as we envisioned them in In the Shadow of Ares.

Now that’s impressive.

One thought on “Design Fiction”

  1. I know. Everyone wants what they said to be the first time it has been thought or uttered. That’s not the point with design fiction though. It’s that it’s not just writing, but the integral bit of storytelling that leaks the narrative into the world, that makes it tangible and in some cases there is little to no distinction between “fact” and “fiction.” It’s the thing that you tell a story about and you compel someone to go ahead and try to make the thing in the model shop and prototyping clean room. Or you have your story and use that as the basis for making a prototype, or the prototype becomes the operational unit of material that itself tells the story by virtue of the way it starts a conversation.
    David Kirby describes it quite well..

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