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Accepted paper:

When intervention doesn't happen: methodological closure in a speculative design workshop and the difficulties of creating moments of openness through anthropology


Andrea Gaspar (CRIA, Centre for Research in Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Collaborations between anthropology and speculative design could be an interesting way for anthropology to engage with imaginative practices about possible futures. Speculative design practices, however, as I will show, are not always methodologically speculative.

Paper long abstract:

Recently, I participated in a Speculative Design workshop, with the aim to contribute to the interdisciplinary field of Design Anthropology, where collaborations of anthropologists with speculative/critical designers in particular are not so often explored. Speculative/Critical Design (SCD) is design that does not aim to make products (not even products easier to use) but rather to open up critical discussions about the future - to imagine possible futures, to speculate about how things could be. Just like ethnography, it is a field concerned with creating questions rather than finding answers or solutions. This, however, is the discourse - the practice is full of routinized ways of making things (new) which, ironically, are not very speculative, methodologically speaking (Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten 2017). The aim of the workshop was to build future scenarios for pre-selected rural contexts. From the point of view of an anthropologist trying to explore how can anthropology engage with these exercises of imagination of futures, my experience was an undeniable failure. In my presentation I will narrate my frustrated attempts to contribute anthropologically to the speculative scenario that was built for a specific place. Keeping however the intuition that the collaborations between anthropology and SCD could be an interesting way for anthropology to engage with imaginative practices about different possible futures, the questions that this experience open is how to intervene in designers' methodological culture, and what are the strategies, the devices or practices for opening up methodological routines in order to speculate collaboratively?

panel P026
Futures Anthropology as Interventional Theory and Practice [Future Anthropologies Network]