Speculative Futures: Design a Future Street
Last weekend I participated in a one-day Speculative Futures design workshop, help in conjunction with Melbourne Conversations. The intent was to think about what a future city street might look like in 2050, by based on the emerging technologies of today. The workshop was hosted by Sarah McArthur (@_SarahMcArthur_), Designer in Residence at the City of Melbourne’s CityLab, and Ollie Cotsafti, Design Fellow & Lecturer at RMIT.
What is Speculative Design?
Speculative designers re-think the role of technology in everyday life and its implications, and try to solve for the problems of tomorrow. Their focus is not about designing new technology, but understanding how people adopt new technologies, how this might change behaviour, how technologies could be applied in unintended ways (for good or bad), and understanding the consequences or moving towards an increasingly technological society. The world-wide network of Speculative Futures (@Futures_Design) chapters grew from the Design Futures Initiative, a non-profit organisation based in San Francisco dedicated to the development and education of Futures Design Thinking; a practice that includes speculative and critical design, design fiction, futurism, and strategy and foresight.
Designing a future city street
Inspiration: We began by looking at some of the many different types of streets around the world; streets that are designed around pedestrians, around cars, “streets” on water, spaces that serve all walks of life, smart streets, streets that come “alive” at various times of the day. We also looked at how streets have changed over time, and explored some of the crazier ideas for what a future street might look like, for example one with tiered fly-ways for drones or some other type of flying automobile.
Ideation: We then looked at a collection of emerging technologies and speculative futures, based on some of broader issues that people and communities are currently facing; the effects of a rapidly changing and unpredictable climate, exploding populations, access to fresh water and food, wider economic divisions, and an ever increasing dependence on technology. Both the inspiration and ideation phases generated a lot of group discussion and I was amazed at the level of collective enthusiasm.