PhD project: Objects of Entanglement and Allure - Steps Towards An Anthro-De-Centric Position In Speculative Design

Tau Lenskjold

This project explores the emergence of a speculative position within the context of Critical Design that traditionally has used design as a medium to question preconceived values and probe alternative futures. Beyond a semiotic and ideologically founded critical stance this dissertation argues for a re-conceptualisation of the experimental design artefact that also and equally pays attention to the objects intrinsic allure, its socio-material entanglement and is translational powers.

The re-framing of critique as speculation set forth in this project follow three interrelated process lines through the thesis. The first of these lines re-trace speculative design from the design avant-garde movements from the 1960s to contemporary applications of speculation in design research. The second process line investigates speculative design at the intersection of collaborative design research and the social sciences, mainly drawing on research from Science and Technology Studies and anthropology.  The third and final process line builds on the insights gained from the experimental design project Urban Animals & Us.  Through a series of design experiments inquiring the possibility of instigating new relationships between seniors and urban animals like gulls and magpies, the project informs the conceptual development of an antro-de-centric stance in design research that seeks to incorporate non-humans others in the ‘collaborative circle’ by critically insisting on design speculations as a means to inquire into the ontological pluralism of multispecies perspectives.

By drawing on a multifaceted methodological approach ranging from the analysis of existing works in design and art, through the historical development of speculative design to collaborative design experiments, the dissertations seeks to develop, capture and elucidate a notion of speculation in design that simultaneously extend a critical stance along two main trajectories that expounds speculative artifacts as, respectively, related to research practices of conducting design inquiries and partaking in design activism. The dissertation’s main contribution thus may be viewed as the weaving-together of a ‘complicated’ yet operational and contemporaneous conception of speculative design that foregrounds the designed artifact’s capacity to both open up new vistas of reality and connect us to a larger collective ‘we’.