Speculative Biodesign

Client: N/A - for fun
Role: Workshop participant
2-3 hours

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Extra thoughts

I was a participant in a workshop entitled ‘Biodesign For Social Impact’ held by a student collective from Edinburgh College of Art who partook within the 2017 Biodesign Challenge. Speculative design was relatively new to me prior to this workshop, which introduced me to causal layered analysis, a futures research technique useful in exploring how language and cognition underpin phenomena. The workshop allowed me to explore current issues through different levels of depth, probing stakeholder relations and the underlying metaphors, myths and collective archetypes that underpin social phenomena. I was introduced to biotechnologies and constructed an alternate world demonstrated in the photo.

What I created

From picking stories in the newspaper and grouping them into themes, I started off with the metaphor that “knowledge is power”. However flipping this belief on its head led me to the knowledge we receive is infiltrated by peoples’ opinions and this of often portrayed by the media and celebrities which are the purple dots travelling to the parrot.

The characters:

The parrot is my stereotype of a gullible, impressionable person, and their thoughts and opinions are being infiltrated heavily by what they’re reading.

So I came up with a shampoo (blue cup filled with white play-dough and metal scrubber) that when washed into hair, filters out peoples’ opinions. This was inspired by a bioremediation application of engineering bacteria, plants and fungi to degrade, recycle or remove contamination from the soil.

The shampoo can filter opinion and bias so you have a clean view of knowledge and facts by degrading opinions, as can be seen by the pig whose thoughts have a blocker.

On the right the other stakeholders, including mad scientists and protestors can now have more informed discussions and debates on things based on clean knowledge and not biased opinions.

And on the left hand side are the policy makers they're either they’re going to be redundant because everyone has equal access to knowledge, or their job would require them to use this type of shampoo to make informed decisions in the country’s best interest.

I found this experience to be a really engaging method to build a story and produce a prompt to facilitate the new world you've built.