Bruce Sterling on Design-Fiction

Bruce Sterling
Bruce Sterling

Design-fiction is the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to dismiss the disbelieve about change. It is not an art movement or an academic movement, instead it is a sneaky hack that makes believing in change easier.

This is becoming relevant now because networked society makes prototypes much more visible than before. Most objects are imaginary: 90 percent of the patented objects have never been built. It has always been hard to see these concepts and prototypes: only very large corporations (think concept-cars) could do it. Now pretty much anybody can do it. Design-fiction pulls in multi-disciplinary people, there are assemble concensus around a product sketch. It crystalizes techno-social potentionals. It can do this outside standard commercial contexts.

One very tweetable quote is “If you know what to call what you are doing, you are not doing real fieldwork now”.

The most important term in design-fiction is diegetic.

Sterling has shared some examples of design-fiction on his blog.

2 thoughts on “Bruce Sterling on Design-Fiction

  1. Hi Hans,
    Creating fictional products and mock ups is indeed a powerful tool in innovation and creativity. I think on of the reasons it works well is that people have a hard time imagining new things and new uses just buy reading or hearing about them. They tend to interpret those with functional fixedness of things they are already familiar with.
    I have learned its value when using Systematic Inventive Thinking session where the group would come up with about 100 new ideas for innovation in a chosen topic or product. Later when we’d prepare the session summary, a simple visual model of the imaginary product would make it much more understandable and suddenly not seem so “fictional” but rather logical….
    Another context I’ve seen it work well is when working on elearning design or on LMS user interface design. If we provide users, SMEs, decision makers etc. with how things will look like (like we do with Alpha versions at Kineo) then it makes people understand the content and approach so much better.
    Keep on writing interesting stuff..,

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