Speculative design is more like an overlap between future studies and critical design. Critical design started at a very specific place and geography and therefore responded to very specific issues in life. SCD uses objects, products and artefacts as a way to challenge assumptions that we make about the world that we live in. Speculative design has an explicit lens of the future on it. Future itself is a contested terminology.
What does future mean in different cultures and different contexts?
In a western context, we prescribe to a linear context of time, future means some point ahead of wherever you are. In a non-western context future becomes anyplace that is not today, it is just about being in an alternate time and space where different things are possible. It is about thinking outside the mental models of the present moment.
SCD is about surfacing and making explicit that every single thing that we say or we do or we think is a product of a bunch of assumptions that we make about ourselves, the people we live with and the world that we live in, and speculation then becomes an act of first, making those assumptions visible, and then intentionally challenging them. Design renders that speculation as an expression, it gives that speculation a form so that other people can interact with that thought.
SCD is a chain reaction rather than something that can just spring up somewhere and stay in a vacuum or in a museum.
It is about using disciplines, discourses as starting points and molding them as per context. Everything is an iteration of something else. As designers, we constantly design the next iteration of that thing. When you think of critical design as something that is extremely resource-intensive and is practised by people with the luxury of time, whose basic needs have already met and therefore can engage in expensive objects and artefacts, disfigure and mutate them into things that they create can live on pristine white pedestals in art galleries where again privileged sections of the society come; critical design is only relevant in those circles. In India or in any community in rural India or urban India, this might not find much attraction or be useful it could be interesting, not useful. But when you get to the core of what we’re trying to do with this thing and bring it to and practice in a way that makes sense to the Indian context then it’s useful there as well. It’s not so much about that thing but it’s about how you practice that thing in the context where you’re trying to make a change. The primary issue that makes the gallery model not effective in a developing world context/ India is what makes it extrusionary. It’s a question of access.
When we practice it or reproduce it within that gallery model, what we are saying is that this thing is inaccessible to the majority of people that live here, so as soon as we do that we’re not being intrusive in our approach. We’re trying to affect the lives of the ninety-nine per cent by doing it in a way that’s only accessible to one person, it’s not going to be effective.