I heard Bruce Sterling briefly speak last night at Plutopia 2011, SXSW in Austin about "design fiction". It's an intriguing concept, a concept that is searching for its meaning. Sterling has blogged on the subject.
Sterling quotes Dr. Stuart Candy's definition of design fiction. “Design fiction has emerged as a pre-eminent tool for designing, challenging and understanding speculative future realities. However, design fiction aims to make the extraordinary ordinary. It merges the elastic creativity of science fiction with everyday matter of fact reality. Furthermore, in using current media conventions as a way to express ideas about the future, design fiction is able to twist reality and trick us into accepting the fantastic as possibility.
“This process seems to afford us a moment in which we can reframe our expectations of reality. Consequently, it alters our conditional assumptions and stories we are using to define our future…”
Jullian Bleeker, Near Future Laboratory, blogged a definition of design fiction. "Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations about alternative futures. It’s about reading P.K. Dick as a systems administrator, or Bruce Sterling as a software design manual. It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries between pragmatics and imagination
When you trace the knots that link science, fact and fiction you see the fascinating crosstalk between and amongst ideas and their materialization. In the tracing you see the simultaneous knowledge-making activities, speculating and pondering and realizing that things are made only by force of the imagination. In the midst of the tangle, one begins to see that fact and fiction are productively indistinguishable.
Design is about the future in a way similar to science fiction. It probes imaginatively and materializes ideas, the way science fiction materializes ideas, oftentimes through stories. What are the ways that all of these things — these canonical ways of making and remaking and imagining the world — can come together in a productive way, without hiding the details and without worrying about the nonsense of strict disciplinary boundaries?"