For each reading assignment, respond with a short essay in which you address these questions:

  • What are the main ideas and concepts of the text?
  • How does this text connect to other readings or discussions in the course?
  • How does it connect to outside materials?

You must also find at least one example or source outside the assigned reading to connect to the text and illustrate your response. To do so, please include images, videos, or other links in your post. For Readings with multiple texts, please write a single essay that encapsulates the thesis of each text and synthesizes them through your own perspective. Each response should be about 500 words.

Reading 1 / DUE JAN 17

Millennials: The Re-Urbanization of America by Corey Hobbs
The 4 Fields of Industrial Design by Bruce & Stephanie Tharp
Speculative Everything, ch. 1-3 by Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby

Reading 2 / DUE JAN 24
Adversarial Design, ch. 1
by Carl DiSalvo
Dark Matter & Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary, ch. 4 by Dan Hill

Reading 3 / DUE JAN 31
The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique, and Invention
by James Corner

Reading 4 / DUE FEB 21
Speculative Everything, ch. 9
 by Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby

Research & Design

Over the course of the semester you will research and design a creative project that proposes a future vision of urban life through the lens of intersecting social issues. Your project should relate to topics of Reconfiguration of Systems and Critical Speculation as discussed in the course presentations and readings. Your process should include additional research methodologies such as Direct Observation, Participatory Design, Expert Interviews, Workshops, &c. Final project ideas include Speculative Maps (spatial or experiential), Speculative Artifacts, Interactive Media, Short Films, or Performative/Interactive Experiences such as a documented workshop. You may work alone or in groups of up to three people.

There are two primary components, each with several steps:
Research Report: including text and process documentation contributed to a group Research Document. 

Urban Futures Project: concluding in an exhibit-quality visualization, artifact, or experience.


Re-MIX Research Statement / DUE JAN 24
What are the intersecting social urban issues? What systems, objects, spaces, interfaces, social rituals are interconnected by them? What is the current status of these issues? What is their history? How are they trending toward the future? Include 2-3 Case Studies of significant historical shifts or novel contemporary scenarios. How do they intersect in a Re-Configuration?
(500 words + Images, Diagrams, Visualizations, or other supporting Media + Short-Presentation) Post to class site and tag “_Research Statement”

New Tech / DUE JAN 24
Research at one specific area of new/emerging technology or pioneering/experimental science. Who is doing the research? What is is proposed to be capable of doing? What are some proposals for its applications in everyday life? What, if any, threats or cautions exist (or can you imagine) if/when this technology or science becomes “real” or widely available? Be prepared to share in class via a brief description/discussion. We will combine all New Tech research in the group Research Document. Post to class site and tag “_New Tech”

Observation (of Alternate Realities or Future Possibilities) / DUE JAN 31
Conduct primary research into your topic via observation. Such as: Visit a high-traffic public site in the city: Fountain Square, Washington Park, Findlay Market, Train Station, Bus Depot. Look for outward signs of your intersecting social topics? How are these issues made manifest in the space, artifacts, symbols, communications, behaviors, social rituals, &c? What are people doing that is directly or indirectly related to your topic? How did they come to understand this as “normal”? To see it differently, ask yourself speculative questions as you observe: What WILL it be like if… ? How would it be different if, historically, something had been different? How would the people behave differently if…? Observe via at least 100 photos. Print and assemble by themes.

Dark Matter Map / DUE FEB 7
Use at least one mapping technique (Layering, Rhizome, Drift, Experience Mapping, Spatial / Temporal Mapping, Thematic Networks, Behavioral Mapping, &c.) to investigate and present intersecting systems, interfaces, human interactions, artifacts, spaces, &/or social rituals—both explicit and implicit—relevant to your Re-Configuration. The assignment takes its name from 2 of our readings, which means it is partly open to your interpretation of those readings. Post finished map to class site and tag “_Dark Matter”

Cone of Possibilities: Creative Writing / DUE FEB 21
Based on research of your intersecting topics, propose various future scenarios through creative writing. Include specific details of your Secondary Research, Observation, and/or New Tech to create a provocative yet plausible Re—MIX.
Imagine various futures for “the city” 20 years from now. What current or unfolding trends, trajectories, technologies would help bring about this world? What would everyday life look like?

1. Dystopia: What if this issue/topic were to get as bad as you can possibly imagine? Reductio ad absurdum. What will the city be like? What will life be like? To help focus, try presenting scenarios from the perspective of different protagonists. How would they “use” the city? How would they get around or navigate? What would they do for work, for fun, or for survival? Where would they live? What would they eat? Where would they go to find love, sex, entertainment?

2. Utopia: Imagine that this issue/topic were to disappear tomorrow. But… what new issues, challenges, or problems could result? For example, if major illnesses and epidemics were eradicated, what would the city look like if everyone starts living to 150? 200?

3. Hybrid: Reality is rarely as dystopian as science fiction nor utopian as technology companies promise. Imagine a hybrid world. How would the city be formed differently? What new forms of social organization would exist? New politics? New forms of economy? New tools and modes of communication? What new ways of being would evolve: ways to eat, work, communicate, socialize, find solitude, relax, stress out, fall in love, go mad, die, become leaders, and do all the wild and beautiful things that humans do? Think about it from the human perspective and at human scale.

4. Spin Again: Pick or add another topic or imagine from a different protagonist’s perspective. Use this exercise iteratively to quickly generate a variety of options from which to craft your Speculative Vision.

Speculative Vision: Visual Essay / DUE FEB 21
Create a Visual Essay of your Hybrid reality from the previous exercise. Visualize an urban future 20 years from now that extrapolates your intersecting issues into new social organizations and new forms of everyday life. Use any medium your prefer. Post & present your written statement with the Speculative Vision.

Final Research Report / DUE MAR 7
Summarize your research into the selected intersecting social issues. What systems, objects, spaces, interfaces, social rituals are interconnected by them? What is the current status of these issues? What is their history? How are they trending toward the future? Include 2-3 Case Studies of significant historical shifts or novel contemporary scenarios. How do they intersect in a Re-Configuration?
(~2000 words + Images, Diagrams, Visualizations, or other supporting Media + CITATIONS!!!)

Design: Final Project

Part 1: Project Proposal / DUE FEB 28

Propose a project that builds on your research in this class and reveals your speculation on urban life 20 years from now. How will contemporary social/political issues merge with cultural trends and emerging technology to produce new forms of everyday life? Use design to present a convincing argument that can stretch the cone of future possibilities. Pay particular attention to the ways in which this world impacts human experience at the 1:1 level—such as personal communications & their interfaces or personal objects & spaces. Give a ~5 min. presentation (PDF format) to propose a design project that builds on your research in this class. You may work alone or in groups up to 3 people.

+ Project Title
+ Brief narrative & visualization of this near future reality (use Speculative Vision if appropriate), using info from your 2ndary Research
+ Visual references to relevant artifacts and systems, as they are or could be (use Dark Matter if appropriate)
+ Current or shifting political/social/economic/cultural trends that shape your new reality, supported by secondary or primary research. In other words, how might we get there? (use Dark Matter if appropriate)
+ New tech/emerging science that could play a significant role in your story
+ References to inspirational projects or current/historical case studies related to your topics
+ Your proposed Atlas (maps + data + narratives), Artefact (part-for-the-whole metaphor or the prop in new social rituals), Engagement (workshop, participatory design methods, &c), or…

(post to class site BEFORE the start of class, tag with “_Project Proposal”)

Design: Final Project

Part 2: Project Presentation / DUE APR 18

Present your research and the context of your speculative proposal briefly in PDF format. Present your resulting artifacts, images, interfaces, games, or … (whatever it is) in the medium of your project.

Presentations,including discussion, will be limited to 15 minutes. Post to class site BEFORE the start of class, tag with _Final Presentation and your name(s).