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A pragmatics framework for design fiction

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Publication date2015
Host publicationProceedings of the 11th European Academy of Design Conference
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Design fiction, is often defined as the “deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change” (Sterling 2012). Practically speaking design fictions can be seen as “a conflation of design, science fact, and science fiction” (Bleecker 2009, p. 6) employing fiction as a medium “not to show how things will be but to open up a space for discussion” (Dunne & Raby 2013, p.51). The concept has gained traction in recent years, with a marked increase in published research on both the meta-theory of the practice itself and also studies of using it in a variety of contexts. However, the field is in a formative period. Hales talks about the term design fiction as being “enticing and provocative, yet it still remains elusive” (2013, p.1) whereas Markussen & Knutz sum up this epoch in the history of design fiction by saying “It is obvious from the growing literature that design fiction is open to several different interpretations, ideologies and aims.” (2013, p.231) So, it seems then that design fiction currently occupies a liminal space between the excitement of possibility and the challenges of divergence. In this paper I will highlight sites of ambiguity and describe the disparate nature of design fiction theory/practice in order to illuminate the inherent complexities. Alongside I suggest elements of a ‘pragmatics framework’ for design fiction in order to strengthen foundations by facilitating a reduction in ambiguity, while being careful not to over specify and therefore constrain the ability to grow and adapt.