From Utopia to Dystopia: Students Insights for the Development of Contemporary Societies through Design Fiction

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Violeta ClementeFátima Pombo

Abstract: This work describes an educational experience exploring the speculative essence of Design Fiction as a pedagogical tool to promote engineering students’ thinking skills within a Design Thinking course. The experience took place at a Portuguese University during the academic year 2021/2022. Students were challenged to speculate about the future of contemporary societies by developing a Design Fiction Scenario around the themes of Sustainability, Future and Technology. After describing the approach adopted and overall data about the intervention, some selected students ideas are presented. Then, students’ written essays content is analyzed regarding their awareness, concerns and hopes about the future of contemporary societies. Results show that while some of the teams followed the direction of utopia, envisioning desirable scenarios to the future, other teams adopted a less optimistic view and designed scenarios where contemporary societies and technology would lead to extreme situations or even chaos, a few of them even raising strong ethical issues. In some cases, it seems rather evident that students deliberately proceeded with these pessimistic scenarios intentionally trying to provoke reactions and stimulate debate among their peers. In other cases students appear to not be aware of those possible dangerous outcomes. Finally we discuss the value and limitations of our approach and conclude by suggesting some guidelines to apply in future interventions aiming to the role of Design as discipline in creating utopian and dystopian fictions regarding scenarios of future development.

Keywords: Design Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia, Scenarios of Future, Engineering Students

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001421

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