For the second year I had the pleasure of facilitating a design workshop as part of the Urban Futures Studio’s summer school, Futuring for Sustainability. This year the super-condensed-half-a-day-online workshop offered participants a taste of how designers speculate about the future from the designed artefact outwards.
In the first part of the workshop I helped participants perform what I call ‘value replacement therapy’: they selected an urban technology, and based on Schwartz’s overview of basic human values, tried to figure out what was the most dominant value associated with the technology. Participants then chose an alternative value (again, relying on Schwartz’s work) and redesigned the urban technology to reflect that alternative value. The last step in this part of the exercise was to imagine and animate the kind of future world within which the newly designed technology would be popular or could scale up.
In the second part of the workshop my co-conspirator, Lenneke Kuijer, guided participants in considering how the newly designed technology would be used in everyday life. Participants reported on the new technology as anthropologists, and wrote short newspaper articles from the future (a technique I have used successfully before).
The results were quite outstanding, given the very short time participants had to dive into the brief and come up with concrete designs. Groups redesigned a bicycle to function as an environmental sensing agent; created a public bench that recharges the energy of those rich enough to use it; reimagined urban vehicles as safe spaces in an ecologically declining city; suggested gardening as a form of electoral renewal; and redesigned garbage bins to reflect neighbourhood spirits and inspire better waste disposal practices. No less important, participants seemed to enjoy the creative freedom of the exercise despite the tight timeframe and the challenges of collaborating across continents and timezones.