Posted on | March 8, 2009 | No Comments
from Putting People First
(Note that the picture above does not show Matt Web, but the video does.)
Matt Webb (blog) is a principal of the design shop Schulze & Webb, which has a special focus on the social life of stuff. Projects include material prototypes for Nokia, Web strategy for the BBC, and an electronic puppet that brings you closer to your friends. Matt tinkers with short fiction and web toys, speaks on design and technology, is co-author of acclaimed book Mind Hacks – cognitive psychology for a general audience – and if you were to sum up his design interests in one word, it would be “politeness.”
Matt talked about scientific fiction and design. He starts from a book called World War Z, the 21st Century best zombie novel so far. When you read it, it makes scientific sense. It is believable.
Despite the outlandishness of some science fiction novels, what has held constant is believability, plausibility.
In a scientific fiction, there are three things that have to work together: human nature, society and things.
You can see the same things in physics: pressure, temperature and volume are intimately linked in water.
Scientific fiction explores the chart of possible worlds in the future. You can’t just invent a product and expect that things will change. Society and human nature will have to change too.
Which products are going to work in the landscape of possible worlds?
Market research is one solution. Economics is another. Evolution is another such way of exploring the chart of possible worlds.
This kind of evolutionary thinking was implemented in the iterative design process to create Olinda, a prototype social digital radio Schulze & Webb developed for the BBC.
The radio then evolves into a number of prototypes and ended up “in where we ended up”.
The past is another set of possible worlds, and just as hard to read. Matt focuses on counterfactuals: “what if?”. Popper says it like this: “try to imagine the conditions under which the trends of the history in question would disappear.”
It is manifest in the counterfactual mobile phones, a project done for Nokia in 2005, which melts at 47 degrees Celsius. What is it about the mobile phone despite this violent evolution into different forms? That brought about an exploration about fabrics and phones, and the possibilities of “editing” your phone, thus creating the much-desired value of “greater attachment”.
For Matt, “design is a way of walking over the landscape of possible worlds.”