On de-metropolization and mutable futures in smart thing's design
Debora Lanzeni (RMIT)
Elisenda Ardèvol (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
Paper short abstract:
Future as a lived category should not be pre-configured before to embrace the fieldwork. Rather, research on future and design is an opportunity to re-think how concepts are being transferred from theory and sociological common sense to ethnographic fieldwork and anthropological analysis.
Paper long abstract:
"Future arrives sooner here", Suchman listened at the radio while driving to her Palo Alto research institute (2011). In our societies future is usually connected to technology development and to the arrow of progress. Research Institutes "live in the future" because they are developing the technology that will become sooner or later part of our daily life. In this paper we want to question this assumption by de-metropolizating the concept of future at the light of our ethnographic experience among smart thing's designers. It implies two different analytical movements: First, to recall that, anthropologically speaking, there is no singular, universal future, nor it can be explained by different representations of the same reality, but that what future is must be actively worked out in each concrete fieldwork context (Hodges, 2014). Second, to avoid to conceive future in relation to the metropolis - at the centre of "design industry" - evacuating it from the periphery of the ordinary life. That means to outcast future from its space-time relationships to recast it as in the place of action and the ongoing making of ordinary people-designers, engineers, anthropologists, makers, CEOs and managers, etc. Then, future is not out from the world we inhabit, future is not always arriving, and we are not going right "there". Rather, future is a tool to make things, and its texture is mutability, as Nielsen (2008) taught us in the case of the Maputo's house builders as we will explain here, in the case of smart technology developers.
Possible/plausible/probable/preferable: concepts and techniques for realising futures [FAN]