2017 Technology and Product in Context

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Breadth courses
Nohara Kayoko 
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Intensive ()  
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Course description and aims

The proposed series of lectures brings together philosophy, design theory and technology studies to investigate design’s role and responsibility, practices and methods, debates and discourses in shaping a post-Anthropocene future. Philosophical ideas concerning the human, the post-human and the nonhuman foreground the investigation into forms of futurecrafting via design: the power of design speculation to craft futures in a scenario defined by planetary computation, digital uncertainty and the need to rethink what counts as human.

Student learning outcomes

Designers should become thinkers, at ease both with the making of concepts and the making of stuff. Thinkering: messing around in an open-ended way with raw material – whether tangible or intangible, concepts or 3D touch-points, ideas or prototypes – to design tools for speculation on the not-yet. The post-Anthropocene calls for a redesign of the hierarchy of the human and the nonhuman, a profoundly liberating project of reframing, refocusing, reperspectivizing, and redesigning the present if ever there was one.



Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

The lecture, workshops and studio-based sessions combined deliver experiential learning. Participants will form small groups in order to design simple prototypes.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Tools for thinking the Post-Anthropocene This lecture maps the key theoretical references, terms and thinkers we draw upon. It looks at Gilles Deleuze’s ideas on the virtual, the actual and the problem; at Félix Guattari’s analysis of subjectivity in the context of planetary computation and the ethico-aesthetic paradigm; at Gilbert Simondon’s evolution of technical objects. It builds a theoretical frame for the understanding of the Anthropocene, how technologies are critically shaping humans and society, and the role of design in these processes. It also examines current debates on post-humanism (Rosi Braidotti) and the nonhuman turn (Giorgio Agamben). It looks at notions of radical materialism and postanthropocentricism to illuminate the need for new narratives, mythologies and practical strategies and to rethink what counts as human in a world dominated by intelligent machines and by increasing digital uncertainty. -
Class 2 Narratives of the human-machine encounter Starting from a critique of current dominant models of computation, we analyze the ‘algorithm’ as the cultural object of today, while looking at the cultural and historical lineage that has framed the encounter of the human with the machine and still inform current narratives of technomagic. We will examine 18th century automata, alongside algorithms, to draw insights on the enchanting power of technology to create awe, curiosity, delight and fear in equal measure, while provoking questions about the relationship between the animated and the inanimate. -
Class 3 Digital uncertainty in planetary computation This lecture examines planetary computation, and the role of digital uncertainty: the potential for unpredictability in computation, manifest in the increasing autonomy of algorithms. We examine key issues in software studies and digital culture including the critical framing of AI and machine learning. We look at ideas concerning the nonhuman intelligence of the algorithm and how this impacts on the encounter human-machine (Parisi). Digital uncertainty is proposed as a creative opportunity space for design and framed as the “virtual”: what triggers the production of the new, and the potential for new forms of digital expression. -
Class 4 Designing futures: speculation, strategies, fiction and futurecrafting This lecture looks at critical design, and at how speculation by design can be deployed as a strategic investigative tool to imagine alternative futures. Drawing on speculative design strategies (Dunne & Raby, Superflux), we explore myth-making devices, world-building methods, and defamiliarization techniques to reflect on, and design, desirable futures. Speculation via design is proposed as a mode of strategic intelligence enabling what ‘may be’: futurecrafting in action. -
Class 5 Animism 2.0 This lecture looks at how human-machine interaction can be reframed in terms of human and nonhuman ecologies that are emergent, cohabiting and highly contingent. Using the speculative myth-making methods examined earlier, we look at how to reimagine the relationship with increasingly animated digital objects (objects with intent). We consider animistic design as a fiction-building strategy to reimagine human–machine interaction by triggering unexpected creative responses. Eschewing the anthropomorphic and the cute playfulness often associated with animism in digital objects, animistic design offers instead a speculative ‘research through making’ approach. -



Reference books, course materials, etc.

to be announced

Assessment criteria and methods

attendance, discussion, presentation

Related courses

  • TSE.C203 : Social Design Project
  • GEG.P501 : Concept Designing
  • TSE.C317 : Methodology of Transdisciplinary Research:theory and practice

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)


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