Design Epistemology









Design Fiction: Does the search for plausibility lead to deception? 

Paul Coulton, Joseph Lindley, Haider Ali Akma

Lancaster University (3)

Keywords: design fiction, plausibility, deception, design futures, speculative design


Since its inception the term ‘design fiction’ has generated considerable interest as a future-focused method of research through design whose aim is to suspend disbelief about change by depicting prototypes inside diegeses, or ‘story worlds’. Plausibility is one of the key qualities often associated with suspension of disbelief, a quality encoded within the artefacts created as design fictions. In this paper we consider whether by crafting this plausibility, works of design fiction are inherently, or can become, deceptive. The notion of deception is potentially problematic for academic researchers who are bound by the research code of ethics at their particular institution and thus it is important to understand how plausibility and deception interact so as to understand any problems associated with using design fiction as a research method. We consider the plausibility of design fictions, looking at examples that are (1) obviously design fiction, (2) identified as design fiction, and (3) whose status is either ambiguous or concealed. We then explore the challenges involved in crafting plausibility by describing our experience of world- building for a design fiction that explores the notion of empathic communications in a digital world. Our conclusions indicate that the form a design fiction takes, and pre- existing familiarity with that form, is a key determinant for whether an audience mistake it for reality and are deceived. Furthermore we suggest that designers may become minded to deliberately employ deceitful strategies in order help their design fiction reach a larger audience. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Coulton, P., Lindley, J., Ali, H. (2016). Design Fiction: Does the search for plausibility lead to deception? Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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