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Design for Terra-Reforming: Prototyping Environmentally Responsible Socio-technical Futures

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Abstract

From the Gutenberg Press to the Internet of Things, socio-technical progress has
benefitted humanity in ways our ancestors likely never thought possible. Many
advancements have, however, had a profoundly detrimental effect upon our planet’s natural environment. Despite the growing spectre of climate change, technological systems continue to be designed and adopted with little culpability. We respond to these issues by outlining the foundations for a novel research approach – Design for Terra-Reforming (DfT) – which seeks to emphasise the environmental consequences that accompany socio-technical development as well as to help make such impacts more accountable. Reflecting on an initial case study, we discuss how DfT combines the actionable insights of physical prototyping with the future-focussed envisioning of Design Fiction prototyping. We then posit how DfT might be further developed into a critical framework for better sustainable governance of the threats future technologies may pose to Earth’s climate and ecology.