What is design speculation? How can I turn it into daily practice? How can I make myself comfortable with this new practice? How can I make great speculative stories?
Design speculation is about projections of the known/now, the part that is close to us and that maybe we don’t question. It’s about identifying threats and avoiding them. It’s about imagination and storytelling. Speculation is questioning what is the norm.
Establighing a protocole
To come to a method of daily speculation I read about it, Speculative Everything was a starting point. I then connected with Sumein Shamsher faculty and learned about Re-imagining the now. A game/method to generate redesign of technological systems.
Using the knowledge I had gathered I made my own method:
1- Item and its definition
2- Context: environmental, social, political and cultural
3- ‘What if’ questions
4- ‘How’ questions based on the definition
5- Possibilities to each ‘how’ questions
6- Selection, and looking into related facts
7- Writing an unperfect short story
Bonus- When stuck watch the Handmaid’s Tale, Black Mirror or reading about design speculation projects.
My item for those two weeks of speculation was the passport. A simple object that to me is unquestioned, I rely on it with confidence. But coming from a Jewish family it has been different for many of its members. The citizenship statute that goes with a passport made it very valuable especially in times of war and hatred that led to episodes of statelessness and in which hiding one’s identity was vital.
What if there was no more physical passports or passport services?
In a TV studio, a man is sobbing, facing the camera. “Please let my Jane come home!”
The reporter explains that Jane, the man’s wife, went on a girl trip. It ended, and the girls came home. Raymond, Jane’s lover, was excited to see her again. He waited at the train station where all the girls arrived, except Jane. They seemed surprised “Raymond! What are you doing here? Already out of the hospital?”. Raymond was confused, then scared, “What happened to Jane?? She’s at the hospital?”. The girls, confused as well, “No, Jane left early. She received a call saying that you had an accident.” The group quickly realized that something was wrong. They went to the police to check her record. Jane apparently came back a few days ago. The officer told them not to worry. He then looked at Ray and said: “hmm, you guys were not married..”.
Raymond with his social media influence connects with other people with similar stories. His story is far from unique, but local authorities cannot do anything. The identity was stated at the border, and according to local police, she is back home. Borders are fluid, so everything is automatic. Some people found evidence that Jane never crossed the border. It is a digital ghost who did it. A person paid by the digital mafia to cross borders using an identity sensor, a sort of cheat code allowing access and making the country believes that they are safely back home.
Rumors are starting to gain importance worldwide. Forgottens, people with no identity, are found. Their country birthmarks are gone, a sign that used to be a second way to check one’s identity. They have no idea of who they are, but people recognize them.
The disappearance does not happen to children or married people. As the border system notifies when a loved one crosses the border a police investigation can start immediately. In the coming years, as international travel is part of daily life, people will get married on their 18th birthday. Soon, being alone will be seen as a weakness and lovelessness will be despised.
Two years ago, physical passports stopped existing. If one has to prove their identity, one must state their name, place of birth, and birth date. A contactless detector will validate or invalidate their statement. Visas are not required to travel, but you must work and spend most of your time in your country. In case of an emergency during a trip, you won’t find the embassy, but the local police will be pleased to help you. Lastly, every newborn has a birthmark with the outline of their birth country.
What if all countries were to close their borders by refusing access to all foreign passports?
What if there was a global passport?
What if passports were taken from jewish people?
In downtown Vancouver, two young girls, Lena and Maï, are exiting a building. Today is a good day, the first day of Rosh Ashanna, the Jewish new year. They walk happily toward the farmer’s market to buy apples and honey for a sweet year. Once under the market tents, they deactivate their identity devices. The control drones cannot reach under the tents.
The seller smiles at them, “The two of you are here for my best apples, I guess.” The girls smile back and nod their heads. The wrinkly woman with long black hair hands them a bag full of red and juicy apples. Lena reaches for currency in the bag. The woman asks, “How is it up in the clouds?” “Good,” says Maï, “The family is doing good! Sometimes I wish those clouds would give us more space and sun. Hopefully, this war will be over soon.” The old lady whispers, “My son told me they are running out of water. Now that they lost our lakes, we are safe”. “I hope so too,” replies Lena handing a jar full of honey. “Thank you, dear. We are even for this cycle, be safe girls. You don’t want the drones to detect an anomaly”. The girls smile and reactivate the devices to blur their presence to the digital world.
On the way home, they stop by a tree. “I wish we could have some trees up there, but their roots are so deep, they would go through the ceiling!” Lena replies to Maï, “Aren’t you happy with our sheep, bees, vegetable garden, and plants Maï? A house with a garden with neighbors would be better, but we live a great life!” “But Lena! You heard if the war is over soon and the drones gone, we won’t have to be careful anymore, and we will be able to visit all of our friends who left for the mountains.” “If they are still alive…” “Lena! No one died for real in this war, a digital death doesn’t make you a dead human…” “That’s where we disagree Maï, come on, let’s go home before they start without us.”
They arrive at the building, hop in the elevator and press the number four and height. The elevator goes up. It reaches floor twenty and makes a short stop. The screen numbers disappear, and it goes up again, continuing to a hidden floor. The door opens to a crowded room, and a man comes to them “Here you are! Come on, let’s cut those apples so we can start.” Maï and Lena get in happily. The honey is already on the table, and everyone has arrived. This year will be a sweet year. Shana Tova!
Two years ago, triggered by the amount of extremist and far-right governments as well as the climate and refugee crisis, WW4 started. History has proven that in those moments, minorities are under attack. Canada was invaded, and the authority asked the Canadian government to take the Jewish people’s passports. The government accepted, but massive online protests pushed them to do it differently. Helped by online powerful networks, new identities were created. With these new identities, they are free to travel and live peacefully. To give them space to express their identity, they could move to governmental facilities located in the clouds. Lastly, they were all given an invisibility device to guarantee their protection.
Speculation and writing a speculative story take time. It is a fun but sometimes difficult process. Getting into the details of a story through the process of writing was quite easy for me. The closer and emotional it was to me, the more difficult it was. It s exciting to see how one tiny idea can lead to a far and complex story. I also got the chance to try Risoprinting through the process, which was very fun.
I am going to keep on working with speculation and maybe even deepen some of those stories.