Reading Responses

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 Response 1
Speculative Everything, chapters 1-3 by Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby
Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem? by Jason Hickel (London School of Economics) & Martin Kirk (The Rules), Fast Company, July 11, 2017

due: no later than 5pm on 8/28

Reading Response 2
How Will Capitalism End?  by Wolfgang Streeck in New Left Review (PDF)

due: no later than 5pm on 8/30

Reading Response 3
Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary, chapter 4 by Dan Hill

due: no later than 5pm on 9/04

Reading Response 4
Guidelines For Envisioning Real Utopias  by Erik Olin Wright

and research at least one “Real Utopia” concept: Universal Basic Income (e.g. Utrecht, Finland), Participatory Institutions / Participatory Budgeting (e.g. Porto Alegre), Federated Cooperatives (e.g. Mondragon, Basque/Spain), etc. … or similar: Crowdfunding (e.g. Kickstarter), “Sharing Economy,” etc.

Include discussion and/or case studies of one example in your reading response (with links, citations, stats, or images, etc) and discuss opportunities or challenges related to its desirability, viability, achievability.

due: no later than 5pm on 9/13

Reading Response 5 
Four Futures, Introduction by Peter Frase
due: no later than 5pm on 9/20

Reading Response 6 
Speculative Everything, chapter 9 by Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby
Just Design by Cameron Tonkinwise
due: no later than 5pm on 9/27

Research Report (assigned 1st full day of class, see schedule for due dates)

You should address the following questions:

  • What are some of the broad social, cultural, political, economic, environmental issues these designers are confronting in their work?
  • What are the main ideas and concepts behind the specific works you selected for the research topic?
  • How does this connect to other readings or discussions within the course?
  • How does it connect to other relevant materials or topics, not discussed in the class readings?

You should bring:

  • Supporting materials that help to understand and contextualize the text in form of images, quotes, and video clips. Create a slide presentation using the Portable Document Format .pdf in the resolution 1024 x 768 px.  Post the .pdf file (check the research report category and your name) to the class blog before the class presentation. You should present directly from the website using this .pdf. Link videos from directly from the .pdf
  • Notes to present the topic in about 10 minutes.
  • Questions to lead the following class discussion.

You will be evaluated based on how you describe the main concepts to your peer students in the adequate detail, how you connect them to other readings and a broader context, your supporting materials, the quality of your questions for the class discussion in the given time frame. Choose an designer/artist/group from the list below.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Ai Hasegawa
Alice Wang Design
Auger Loizeau (James Auger & Jimmy Loizeau)
Bernd Hopfengaertner
Chloé Rutzerveld
Constantine Boym
Daniel Goddemeyer
Dunne & Raby (Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby)
Hussein Chalayan
Julia Lohmann
Noam Toran
Natalie Jerimejenko
Near Future Laboratory (Nicholas Nova & Julian Bleecker)
Norman Bel Geddes
Parsons & Charlesworth (Tim Parsons & Jessica Charlesworth)
Studio PSK (Patrick Stevenson-Keating)
Paul Gong
Revital Cohen
Thought Collider (Mike Thompson & Susana Cámara Lere)
Yes Men
YiWen Tseng
Zoe Papadopoulou

Observation of Future Realities

“But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians cheat on their expenses; feral bankers plunder the public purse for all its worth; CEOs, hedge fund operators, and private equity geniuses loot the world of wealth; telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills; corporations and the wealthy don’t pay taxes while they feed at the trough of public finance; shopkeepers price gouge; and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.

A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory practices to the point of daylight robbery—particularly of the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the legally unprotected—has become the order of the day. Does anyone believe it is possible to find an honest capitalist, an honest banker, an honest politician, an honest shopkeeper, or an honest police commissioner anymore? Yes, they do exist. But only as a minority that everyone else regards as stupid. Get smart. Get easy profits. Defraud and steal! The odds of getting caught are low. And in any case, there are plenty of ways to shield personal wealth form the costs of corporate malfeasance.”

David Harvey, Rebel Cities, p. 156

Visit a high-traffic public site in the city: Fountain Square, Washington Park, Findlay Market, Train Station, Bus Depot… Spend a few hours there. What is the space? What are its qualities? What are its components: individual objects, symbols, interfaces, social rituals, etc? What are people doing? How do they interact? With each other? With their environment? With objects in the environment? What communications are taking place? What systems are at play to make the space be as it is and the people act as they do? Consider all the explicit and implicit systems (assumptions) in place that make things the way they are.

You are looking for signs of:

  1. Symbols of “feral” capitalism (Harvey) at play in the city: Crisis, Corruption, Decay, Fraud, etc.
  2. Weak signals of the potential for dramatic social change, or, the seeds of new ways of being that have yet to flourish, or, stifled opportunities waiting to burst forth.

How might the objects, symbols, social rituals, etc. act to bring an end to capitalism? What can you read into them about how an entirely new economic-social order could be produced?

Observe via 100 photos (minimum). Print (small), assemble by relevant themes, bring to class. due: 9/05

Mapping the Dark Matter
Select a single object, artifact, interface, social ritual, or other tangible “thing” from your Observation. Research the “meta” and the “matter” to investigate those forces that have shaped how it has come to be. Interrogate the object to reveal the systems behind it.

Visualize this Dark Matter via diagrams, maps, network visualizations, information or material flows, &c. Use historical and/or contemporary case studies to make concepts concrete. Make the network of dark matter forces you are investigating tangible and visible. Present in class in print/physical form. Post on 9/19 and categorize as “_dark matter”

first review: 9/12 // due: 9/19 

New Tech/Science Research
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? Post your findings to the class site (including relevant links, videos, images, &c.) Categorize as “_new tech research” and be prepared to share in class.

due: 9/12

Speculative Vision
Written Component: Based on your research thus far, write a scenario that charts a specific speculative vision of future life in the city. Start with a specific “What if…” question related to your topic(s) of inquiry. What cultural, social, political, economic trends today might lead to a collapse of Capitalism and the creation of a new political economy? How might emerging technology or pioneering science steer those topics? What is the nature of the post-capitalist political economy? How does it shape everyday life around a specific topic, domain, object, or social ritual? Follow the 3 step method of writing a Dystopia, Utopia, to then craft a Middletopia (blending positive attributes with clear tradeoffs).

Visual Component: From your written scenario, produce a visual essay as your Speculative Vision. Remember that the closer it appears to reflect a possible alternate reality—an alternate version of everyday life—the greater its power to disturb and provoke thought or new perspectives. This vision should be amply rich with thought-provoking visual/designed materials to help the viewer “suspend disbelief” and enter your imaginative world. You may work in any format. For example: collage, drawing, book/zine, film/video, photo series, performance, &c.
due: 10/03

Final Project Proposals
Give a brief presentation (PDF format, 10 min max) to propose a post-Capitalist future scenario that builds on your research in this class.

First: Portray your vision of a near future reality as described via everyday life. How will it be different from here & now? What shifts in culture, economics, environment, religion, economics, social organizations, materiality, &c. will contribute to the different-ness of your envisioned world? What will be the new political economy and how will it affect everyday life?

Next: Propose 3 objects, artefacts, communications, environments, or social rituals that can embody this alternate reality. What social/political/economic structures or understandings are revealed through these artefacts?

+ Project Title
+ Brief narrative & visualization of this near future reality (use Speculative Vision if appropriate)
+ Visual references of 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/emerging technologies that play a role in your story
+ Reference to inspirational projects related to your topic
+ At least 3 designed “objects” that you propose to produce to exemplify this alternate reality
+ Propose at least one act of primary research during the course of your work: user testing, workshop to gain insights or feedback, grow your own biotextile, etc.

due: 10/12 (post to class site BEFORE the start of class)
Can we start class at 1p?