What are they?
Speculative objects are artefacts that designers make to enable speculation and critical engagement with possible futures. They may be an early stage iteration of a design or a fully functioning prototype. The function of a speculative object is to provoke thought. A speculative object can help a researcher reflect on current experiences of technology and imagine alternative futures by analysing the different ways it might impact on (and be used or misused by) different members of a society.
- Are often based on longer and shorter timescales than regular product lifecycles.
- May have a practical purpose or a fictional purpose (a purpose or function that does not yet exist).
- May challenge our ethical beliefs, or our cultural assumptions.
- May offer an innovative solution to a problem, celebrate a ‘best case scenario’ or dramatise a ‘worst case scenario’.
Speculative objects are associated with critical design, speculative design and design fiction. They are used in design futuring. Speculative objects, as well as proposing new designs, can propose questions about the role of objects and systems in our future lives. They are used in conjunction with scenarios, or personas.