Designing Futures: Technology, Imaginaries and Social Change

Birk Fabian Diener

Studenteropgave: Speciale


It is often predicted that technological progress will lead to social change. Technologies are for example expected to help fight climate change, end world hunger and increase access to education. But a comparison of the predictions and outcomes of technological advances in the past suggests that expectations associated with technological progress tend to be exaggerated. Still, technological visions continue to have an important influence on how futures are envisioned, planned and enacted. Against this background, it has been argued that the social sciences should intervene and encourage an opening up of discourses about preferable futures.
This thesis argues that design processes are central in turning visions into reality and engages with two steps towards a more attentive and including way of envisioning technological futures: (1) It seeks to provide a better understanding of how present futures affect design processes and by this shape future presents. (2) It thinks towards a social science based, future-oriented design approach. To engage with this two steps three design processes concerned with the application of technologies are ethnographically studied through interviews with the designers and participant observation.
The thesis analyses how the three design processes and their imaginaries affect and constitute each other: The designers create an imaginary by relating and adapting visions and expectations depicted in commercial videos, articles, websites and project descriptions to their own situation. The design processes apply an imaginary, seeking to embed visions into the complex sociotechnical systems the design should become part of, through the designers’ actions. The designers change an imaginary, in order to adapt the imaginary to the realities the design should intervene in. And finally the design outcomes confirm an imaginary.
Based on the finding that the three design projects’ imaginaries are too technology centred, too narrow in scope and were too carelessly changed, the thesis thinks towards a future-oriented design approach. To do this two social scientific ways of future-thinking and utopian-imagining are evaluated and their applicability proven.
The thesis concludes that a future-oriented design approach could offer an opportunity for social scientists to participate as co-designers in design processes. A future-oriented design approach provides a more attentive and including way of envisioning technological futures and is a non-institutionalised form of productive future-thinking.

UddannelserSpatial Design and Society, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato28 jun. 2017
Antal sider90
VejledereDavid Pinder