Preferable Worlds: Design Practices for Alternative Futures

A few months ago, just weeks before the pandemic began to rip apart the fabric of our everyday lives, I went on record with an admittedly silly, perhaps childish idea. If human history was a TV series —say, a thrilling cinematic documentary—the period we are living through would be a perfect cliffhanger: that point of maximum narrative tension before the resolution in the last episode. …


On images of the future as cybernetic belief systems

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Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash

The objective of this paper is to connect the somewhat obscure concept of hyperstitions — as developed by the group of researchers that operated under the banner of Cybernetic Culture Research Unit — to the concept and theories of ‘images of the…


A brief for a new golden age.

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Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

There seems to be a lot of reflection going on these days about the evolution of design, the role it plays in shaping the way we live, and, perhaps most importantly, the potential futures for the discipline. This type of historical reflection always comes, either explicitly or implicitly, with a certain timeframe.

For example, a few months ago, the studio Tellart launched Design Nonfiction: a documentary series exploring “transformations in design practice between the Dotcom Crash and the rise of machine intelligence.” And so, in that case, we are looking at the fairly recent evolution of the field over the last couple of decades, from the turn of the century onwards. …


Algunos comentarios sobre ‘Diseño de Futuros.’

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Los participantes de la primera edición del curso “Diseño de Futuros” en h2i institute (Julio, 2018) durante la actividad conocida como ‘Juego de Polak’ que realizamos subrepticiamente ;-) en la plaza de CaixaForum Madrid.

Mi amiga Elisabet Roselló publicó hace algunos días un excelente artículo titulado “Diseño de futuros: ¿el futuro se crea? Unas aclaraciones.” En él, hace una revisión de algunos términos que se utilizan para denominar distintas prácticas que integran diseño y prospectiva. Su argumento es que el “Diseño de futuros” no existe. Dado que probablemente soy uno de los culpables de fomentar el uso del término (particularmente a través del curso que imparto en la escuela h2i institute en Madrid) siento que lo más responsable sería participar en la conversación.

Sin embargo, antes de empezar es importante aclarar que cuando digo que Elisabet es mi amiga y que el texto es excelente no estoy siendo hipócrita. Hace apenas unos días, cuando intercambiamos felicitaciones de año nuevo, le decía a Elisabet que platicar con ella durante los últimos meses sobre diversos temas que nos interesan a ambos ha sido un deleite. Hablar de futuros está muy de moda. Desde mi perspectiva, y como lo ponía hace algunos meses en un breve rant que publiqué en Twitter, una gran mayoría de las personas que actualmente se interesan por el futuro simplemente buscan capitalizarlo (en el sentido más literal del término). Con lo cual, es sumamente esperanzador encontrar a alguien, como ella, que tiene un genuino interés filosófico y un compromiso político con la prospectiva. …


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This is an English translation of a thread I recently tweeted in Spanish. Of course, the recent hype around “futurism” — notice the scare quotes — to which it refers is, to some extent, particular to Mexico and Latin America. However, I believe the overall argument and the check list applies to futures work in general.

Maybe I’m biased due to an effect of selective attention but it seems that, these days, everyone is a futurist. What I mean is that more and more individuals and organizations are trying to appropriate “the future” to capitalize on it.

If the wave has not reached you, wait a few months. …


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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Imagine that you’re walking.

The space in front of you is dark, pitch black. You can’t see where you’re going. Only the ground you’re stepping on.

You’re walking on a road. But at times it’s not even that, just a path or an open field.

At least you’re not alone. You walk along a group of people — perhaps your family and friends, or a troop of some kind, even a crowd.

Some of those walking along with you believe that the field you’re walking into is already there — it’s just that you can’t see it. They brag about their capacity to see what’s in front of you, to predict the road ahead. They offer to guide you. But you don’t believe in them. …


Or why designers need to get political.

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Occupy Wall Street protesters gather to listen to speakers in Zuccotti Park (Nov. 15, 2011) Photo by Henny Ray Abrams (Source)

About a year ago I published a personal take on strategic design and its futures (original Spanish version here). In the third part, I half-jokingly proposed the term ‘superdesign’ to designate a three-dimensional evolution of the practice: from objects to systems, from the present to futures, from affirmative to critical practices. The evolution over the first dimension refers to the growth of fields that most clearly engage with social (as well as sociotechnical and socionatural) systems, i.e. experience design, organizational design, service design and, most importantly, three fields that explicitly deploy design for the purpose of social transformation, namely: systemic design, design for social innovation and transition design. These latter advocate for the use of design methods to lead social change in areas such as health, transportation, energy and food systems as well as “the reconception of entire lifestyles” toward sustainable futures. …


La variable del poder en el diseño de servicios.

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Edmundo, primer conductor de Uber en Monterrey, México. Fuente: https://www.uber.com/es-MX/blog/monterrey/celebramos-5-aniversario-3/

Me pasa lo que a todos: a veces me da mucha pereza platicar con los taxistas o conductores de Uber. Cuando eso sucede, les pido una disculpa y me pongo mis audífonos para escuchar música o algún podcast. Otras veces sí me pongo a charlar largo y tendido con ellos. Así me he enterado, por ejemplo, de las vicisitudes que pasan para poder ir al baño cuando están de turno. Pero tal vez el tema más interesante que algunos han tocado es el de los maltratos que llegan a recibir por parte de algunos pasajeros. Desafortunadamente, es muy común.

A todos nos ha tocado ir tarde de camino a una junta o rumbo al aeropuerto. La mayoría de las veces, seamos honestos, es nuestra culpa. Desde luego, siempre puede suceder que el conductor elija una mala ruta, maneje muy lento o, al contrario, maneje de forma brusca — esto dejando de lado, por supuesto, los crímenes que algunos conductores han cometido. El punto es que existen muchos pasajeros que presionan, insultan y abusan de los conductores escudándose detrás de una idea tan arraigada como errónea: “el cliente siempre tiene la…


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La inundación del valle Fraser en British Columbia, Canada en 1948. Fuente: Fraser Valley Flood of 1948

Aquellos a los que nos interesa imaginar el futuro estamos siempre listos para aclarar que la prospectiva no se trata de profecías ni de predicciones. El propósito, solemos decir, es explorar el universo de futuros posibles para descubrir las direcciones de cambio más probables y, lo que es más importante, las más deseables. Esto quiere decir que procedemos con la convicción de que el futuro no existe — dixit Jim Dator — pero que los procesos de cambio tienen patrones que nos permiten explorar distintos escenarios a futuro.

Uno de los patrones principales que tanto futuristas como historiadores utilizan para examinar el cambio son los ciclos — principalmente ecológicos y económicos. En las economías capitalistas existen, por ejemplo, ciclos Kitchin (de 3 a 5 años), ciclos Juglar (7 a 11 años), oscilaciones de Kuznets (15 a 25 años) y ondas Kondratiev (45 a 60 años). …


A personal take on strategic design and its future.

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A self-organized workshop on service blueprinting by the Uncommon team.

The original Spanish version of this article was published in Uncommon.

At the end of last year, I made one of the toughest professional decisions that I’ve ever had to make. It felt like jumping from a luxurious, but heavy, cruise ship to a small and somewhat austere boat that, nonetheless, is fast and teamed with a first class crew. Given that the cruise ship is one of those companies that almost anyone would like to work for, my decision was surprising for some friends. Thus, when someone asks me about the move, my answer is always that it was mainly a vocational decision. It was a move in two dimensions: advertisingdesign, creative technologystrategy. …

About

Jorge Camacho

I help organizations design better futures for people. Co-Founder diagonal.studio. I teach about design, futures and systems at centro.edu.mx and ibero.mx

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