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Why and how to use speculative design as an ideation technique. This is my thought process while creating a pitch for an speculative design workshop for a group of students in Europe doing a program on New Politics and Afrofuturism.
To create this workshop, I went back reading about afrofuturism. I first got introduced to the concept of Afrofuturism in 2018, during the hype for the Black Panther film. At that time, Design Indaba, the African based platform and conference was publishing a series of articles about it and the term was all over the news. Some artists argued it wasn’t a new trend but in fact it’s been around for a long time, just not mainstream. Black the Future, published in 1994 used the term for the first time in a speculative fiction.
Then I started reading about Magid Magid, who was involved in the program I was pitching for at The University of The Underground. He is a somali-british man in his 30s politically active in England and involved in EU politics. I worked with integration projects with the somalian community in Sweden, so I had a vague idea about his background, cultural differences and struggles.
Migration and Memory
I’m an immigrant myself, I’ve been an immigrant for 11 years now. I first migrated to the US from Argentina before migrating to Sweden, a place that is now my second home after Buenos Aires. I felt that creating a workshop about the concept of <Migration and Memory> was something that was very close to me at a personal level, something that I live with and is very present in my everyday life. I decided to add some of the feelings of missplacement, cultural memory, lost rituals and new rituals into a piece of learning with others.
For the workshop, I worked around the topic of migration and memory with an speculative design approach. My goal was to create an activity that will:
1. Trigger ideas about migration from a “neutral” speculative space. Working with students that have different background, it was important to create a neutral space where everybody can start working from a similar place, as a way to avoid falling into common places or misconceptions.
2. introduced the participants to a user centered design method I wanted students to learn about design thinking, product design and prototyping as tools that can be applied to other work.
I created a space from where to host the workshop digitally at my studio. Since the workshop was going to be shared on social media, the format needed to be match the aesthetics. It had to allowed me to be able to connect with the group even at the distance and be able to play music for the activities. Something I’ve learned during covid is that the background, the colors, the lighting the sound quality, the internet quality, the camera and the possibility of displaying visuals are key to help create an atmosphere for learning in a digital format. I’ve got inspiration from Domestika, Masterclass, and Cardi B.
Designing Identity Survival Kits for Human Migrants
A workshop applying design thinking and speculative design to prototype speculative products exploring the concepts of: migrant identity and identity preservation.
“We are part of an independent team collaborating with the United Nations Refugee Agency to ideate Identity Survival Kits that can be digitally distributed in International borders upon arrival of newly arrived immigrants and refugees. The Kits are to help preserve memories and behaviors before they transform by the influence of the new place. They are meant to help migrants to document a part of their identity for future references.”
The workshop will lead participants through a step by step, design thinking process of four phases: Immersion, Definition, Ideation and Prototyping. The speculative scenario is set to help participants to stretch their imagination about the technology available for the digital distribution of the kits. Being placed in a speculative fiction where distribution has to be digital we help participants think of the limitations of digitalising the concept of identity as a social complex, cultural, political and regional process.
Participants will be encourage to share ideas, personal perceptions about the need for migration and memory. They will pushed to make quick decisions on explore the process of translating feelings and concepts into tangible kits that can be communicated to others. The groups will get to collectively define their position about the main elements that define migrant identity and have a space to run their imagination into different worlds.