I wanted to respond to the notions of Utopia and Dystopia as put forth by Dunne and Raby. I think a central tenant of their argument is that we need to suspend our assent to what we call ‘knowledge’ – particularly knowledge of the external world. Claiming we are capable of constructing a utopian future relies heavily on the belief that we know what we would need to do in order to create one, and for whom such a utopian future would be beneficial. This is exactly what they are writing against in their argument. To me this is the demotion of dreams to hopes. Hoping for such a future disregards those wonderful ideas that come to us in our dreams. Such reframing of dreams is unnecessarily restrictive and is what we as designers need to make sure we check before we start designing something. Is thinking about our future, or better yet dreaming of our future, benefitted from thinking in the utopian/dystopian dichotomy? Rather, on page 8 of the Dunne/Raby reading they propose the idea:
On a more positive note, with this reduction in top-down governing, there has been a corresponding shift away from the top-down mega-utopias dreamt up by an elite; today, we can strive for one million tiny utopias each dreamt up by a single person.
To me this reminds me fully of the project Descartes set out to do in his Meditations. For those of you who haven’t read Descartes (I am assuming most of you haven’t) what Descartes did was begin a project to build a foundation of indubitable beliefs. That is, Descartes wouldn’t claim something as knowledge unless it, in no way, relied on belief. This type of calming our assents to belief, or the status quo, is key to what we should do as designers. What type of assumptions or norms are we supporting without questioning? What type of future are we ignoring by limiting our ideas to the “possible”?
There is lots more to say but I think I have said enough to get some dialogue going.