Co-living in the near future

A Research through Design project using design fiction for exploring the perhaps preferred future of co-living.
We wanted to facilitate a dialog on how this future might look like in a humoristic way. The ironic distance to the artefacts and the anti-polishedness was a way of reframing the current meaning of living together hence to create a design space that was open to new interpretations and speculations.


The moon is not a harsh mistress as Robert Heinlein states in his science fiction novel from 1966. Neither is it made out of cheese. It’s made out of rocks and metals and sprinkled with lunar soil called regolith. Not much more. Yet we find ourselves making up imagined worlds around artefacts to understand, explore and on rare occasions when the moon is just right attempt to exform the meaning of things through design practices. I’m curious to why we discard our disbelief and engage in speculative fabulations and design fictions. How we as designers persuade audiences to engage in world makings to draw situated matters into matter. Additionally how to consider the practice of doing RtD as a methodology that contributes to knowledge construction within design research and the field of HCI.


We went through a lot of material explorations with both cardboard, different 3D print material, fabric, yarn, filt, LED's etc. to explore the qualities of the material and how to combine them.
Things are not just an entity of matter but also sociomaterial assemblages that deals with matters of concern. This divide within the meaning of things is relevant because it suggests devotion to address the dichotomy between form and function of things. Our process for making Co-Stuff has especially been centered around the crafting of things. Nevertheless the actual things has rather been manifestations of story-making and contextualizing values within co-living, than being just entities of matter. Yet today we are faced with fluid assemblages as IoT that forces the designer to consider the temporality of the computational material - and perhaps broaden up what is considered a thing – not to mention how to design a future with these things that are not things. The wickedness of matters and our methodological investigation of matters and matter becomes even harder to tell the story of when the physical presence of things becomes ambiguous


As designers we engaged in a design process, where we was is need of making a story based not on just what is made actual through design but what is made real. This becoming of things suggest that things are not preexisting but rather situated and presenting themselves when being used. Considering this we are able to begin to exform the meaning of things and gain insights through the practice of design fictions. This brought us on a road dominated by a material and speculative turn that allowed our design practice to practice speculations into preferred futures as a structured set of design doings.


This brings us back to the telling of narratives as Design Fictions or Thought Experiments-constructions. Our designs can be considered as situated worlds expressed through things. They are not merely kinds of fictions, they are the kinds of design that narrates worlds not stories.


They are design fictions from a practice based design discipline, not science fiction as Robert Heinlein science fiction novel. The difference is of great importance.


To create a research based design fiction, we had to create a bridge between the audience’s perception of their world and the fictional element of the concept. When expressed through the physical things, we move the audience closer to our own worlds and step away from the world of science fiction.


This brings us back to the telling of narratives as Design Fictions or Thought Experiments-constructions. Our designs can be considered as situated worlds expressed through things. They are not merely kinds of fictions, they are the kinds of design that narrates worlds not stories. They are design fictions from a practice based design discipline, not science fiction as Robert Heinlein science fiction novel. The difference is of great importance. To create a research based design fiction, we had to create a bridge between the audience’s perception of their world and the fictional element of the concept. When expressed through the physical things, we move the audience closer to our own worlds and step away from the world of science fiction.
Practicing RtD and engaging in the making of worlds and design fiction we were able to work within a holistic opportunity space rather than a problem space. Our rationalization of our work were grounded in more emotional based argumentation over cognitively based (not to say that one rules out the other). To argument for more emotionally based design decisions we turned to design synthesis as a sense-making practice. Our abductive way of making sense through chaos is not non-valid argumentation rather a creative and structured mindset to organize data. Doing design research that is centered around the near future, the becoming of things, fluid assemblages and world makings we needed to trust the fact that we were able to balance the dual role as a designer as both a futures researcher making stories from situated knowledge and as a practitioner of design making. This makes visible the non-visible and designs: “a higher quality conversation” with a context that encourage reflection through the communication of a concept. Yet the physical presence of the thing becomes the manifestation of our values and how we engage in life. But when things also become fluid and ambiguous how do we design their stories and how do we design design?
“It matters what thoughts think thoughts, what stories tell stories, what knowledges know knowledges.” (Haraway, 2015).