A closed-loop approach that yields content that seems familiar and uncanny—alternate realities and speculative futures
Drew Sisk Assistant Professor Clemson University
From early technologies in photography and film, to the emergence of the desktop computer as an accessible tool for making creative work, technological advancements have triggered simultaneous trepidation and enthusiasm among artists and designers. We see the same reactions with AI now.
AI is changing the way we approach creative processes, making them more fluid, generative, and fast-paced. More importantly, it is fundamentally altering the way we perceive images and objects of design. In the same way that Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Eye film technique in the 1920s sought to use cinematography and editing as ways to create form that is “inaccessible to the human eye,” AI will continue opening up new forms of perception that we cannot even imagine. In this presentation, I will apply the work of Dziga Vertov, Walter Benjamin, John Berger, and Hito Steyerl to the current discourse on AI and design.
The design studio and classroom have proven to be fruitful spaces to explore AI. In this presentation, I will share some of my own nascent experiments using AI in a closed-loop approach that yields content that seems familiar and uncanny—alternate realities and speculative futures at the same time. I will also share work from my advanced graphic design students, who have been experimenting with AI tools and making speculative work that critically engages with AI. Artificial intelligence presents us with new possibilities for making form, but, more importantly, our work requires us to wrestle with the ethics and consequences of this rapidly expanding technology.
In design education, it is vital to bring future thinking into class projects
Mehrdad Sedaghat-Baghbani Assistant Professor Florida Atlantic University
Having a logical and possible image of the future keeps us safe from natural disasters and leads us to welcome new opportunities. Through speculative design, we can propose future scenarios that we prefer rather than one we just encounter. Benjamin Bratton writes that “Speculative design confronts an uncertain and ambiguous future and seeks to give it shape.”
Design is a future-oriented discipline that goes beyond traditional realms of production and communication. It is expected that design plays a greater role of socio-technical intervention. Synchronizing design students and the educational system with these emerging demands has always been one of the main challenges of design educators. According to Dunne and Raby in their book Speculative Everything, designers should not just address issues of today, but also take a look into the future and ask, “How can we address future challenges with design?” In design education, it is vital to bring future thinking into class projects not only to introduce students to larger disciplinary conversations but also to provide them with critical tools to map a satisfying picture of the future as designer citizens. But it is important to understand that speculative design is not a prediction of the future. Rather, it creates a narrative of possible future realities that help us question the possible implications for all aspects of society.
In the course of an exercise in problem-solving and macro approaches to projects in an undergraduate level visual design course at Florida Atlantic University, students were asked to speculate about a product of the future by analyzing a current advanced technology. By studying the path of emergence and the development of that technology to date, they were able to speculate about the direction of this progress over a period of twenty years. Being careful to avoid temptations for fantasy, they were able to envision a future that is plausible and probable, but not impossible. In a four-week long project, the outcomes were various future products for society that were presented as prototypes and posters by the students in the class.
This presentation addresses the methods and processes we used to design the future as a Graphic Design class project, and it showcases several student projects in order to have a better understanding of the process.
Media Design Practices
Art Center College of Design
Yeawon Kim Graduate student Media Design Practices Art Center College of Design
Crime prediction technology – we have all seen it in the movies, but what has in the past been pure fiction is now quickly becoming a reality. Predpol, HunchLab and ComStat are different types of relatively new crime prediction software, or “predicative policing” software, that demonstrate how algorithms and other technologies can be used within urban infrastructures to predict crime. However, utilizing these technologies and algorithms to collect data to predict crime, which is invariably subject to and tainted by human perception and use, can lead to a number of adverse ethical consequences – such as the amplification of existing biases against certain types of individuals based on race, gender or otherwise. On the other hand, if data can be gathered by some artificial intelligence (AI) means – thereby removing the human component from such data collection, can doing so result in more efficient and accurate crime prediction? Furthermore, will we in doing so also reshape the aesthetic of urban landscapes, especially when one takes into account the constant evolution of AI?
Insectile Indices is therefore a speculative design project that considers how electronically augmented insects could be trained to act as sophisticated data sensors, working in groups, as part of a neighborhood crime predicative policing initiative in the city of Los Angeles, 2027. This project is not only an investigation into the ethics of this controversial idea, but an aesthetic exploration into the deliberate alteration to a natural wildlife ecosystem of insects and the potential reshaping of an urban landscape.
In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) asked American scientists to submit proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs, the results of which led to a plethora of troubling and worrisome commentary. Rather than build off of a frightening narrative that discusses the potential sinister militaristic use of such technology, this project does the opposite and imagines instead an aesthetically pleasing utopia where these insect-cyborgs have social utility and work towards the public good of humanity. Insectile indices also plays with the idea of aesthetics in our future techno-driven world by addressing whether we are more apt to silently “turn the other cheek” to more pervasive surveillance if these insect-cyborgs, or the urban landscapes they have the potential to reshape, become more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
In this session, I plan to share the process of researching and creating the visual representation of this speculative fiction.
Jonathan Hanahan Assistant Professor, Communication Design Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts Washington University in St. Louis
Fake news is a problem created by designers. It is a problem of aesthetics, not simply content or substance. Attempts to clarify the way information from any source is rendered in the walled gardens of our social media platforms—where reportedly 62% of American adults get news information—have homogenized the visual representation of all content, reliable or not.
This presentation discusses an ongoing research project—titled The 45th City—which investigates the role that design plays in the current fake news epidemic, epitomized by the recent election of the 45th President of the United States. The project explores speculative ways of visualizing both reliable and unreliable news websites through the physicalization of code into 3D artifacts. It inquires on a real world implication of the legitimization of such entities and encourages audiences to occupy, investigate, and contemplate their relationship to digital infrastructure beyond the thin veneer of their devices.
This series of large scale 3D artifacts along with corresponding digital renderings will be on view at The Luminary in St. Louis, MO in September 2017 and the pinkcomma gallery in Boston, MA in early 2018.
Alan Walker MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor School of Visual Communication Design Kent State University
Alex Catanese MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor School of Visual Communication Design Kent State University
Jordan Kauffman MFA Candidate & Adjunct Instructor School of Visual Communication Design Kent State University
Many of us have experienced moments where we can’t help but stop. We slow down to take in our surroundings; the single sliver of orange hanging onto the end of a sunset, or the subtle shift in colors on a lush rolling countryside. It’s hard to describe or identify why these locations express beauty, but they move us all the same. Place Into Words challenges viewers to imagine Mars, a planet often characterized as desolate and barren, as beautiful terrain. One day future generations may know nothing other than Mars’s vast canyons or sheer volcanos. Could a distant planet offer their most beautiful place?
Place Into Words was originally produced as a part of Kent State University’s School of Visual Communication Design MFA exhi bit, inspired by NASA’s O rion program, titled Survey’s: A Design Exhibition Immersed In The Journey Between Earth and Mars. The exhibit was backed by a semester long research process of secondary and primary methods, including interviews with NASA personnel and a visit to The Glenn Research Center.
Visitors to the exhibit were met with a 20ft projection collaging archival NASA footage and landscape photography of Earth and Mars, combined with documentary style audio of ordinary people’s responses to what they consider their most beautiful place. Visitors were also encouraged to participate by typing a response into the projection display. The installation created a distinct space in hopes to provoke and stir a sense of curiosity and wonder surrounding space travel.
This presentation will include insights gained through the process of research and creation. In addition, designers will present the companion Place Into Words online interface and screen a preview of the video component. Attendees will gain a broader understanding of how speculative design might be applied to experimental installations.