Methodologies: Fictional Objects

Fictional Objects

Sci- fi prototyping was coined by Intel’s futurist  Brian David Johnson in his book: Science Fiction Prototyping.
I really recommend you guys to read it, its fascinating.
I got introduced to this method while studying my Masters degree at the Royal College of Art and since then I use it for my work.
In this method, science fiction is used as a tool to create alternative worlds, prototypes of hypothesis about other realities that could have happened or that could possibly happen; objects within these scenarios help bridge our world with the imaginary world.
These constructions are fictional artifacts or storytelling props. They act as a bridge between our world of constraints and the world of the imagination.
Through these objects we access a parallel universe where there are no constraints and where these artifacts live and function. We are then figuratively bringing them over to our world to study and understand.
To explain how these objects are made:
Product Disassembly- Todd McLellan
1.You take discarded products, broken toys, electronics etc.
2.Then you disassemble them, separating all the parts.
You observe the affordances of each of these parts, stripping them from their initial identity as lets say, handles, or motors, etc. At this stage you don’t know anything about this parts. You are an archaeologist discovering a lost civilization and want to make sense of these contraptions.
So that’s the mindset you have at this stage in the exercise.
3.You then put the parts together in a way that the part itself guides you to. (that’s called the affordance of a shape)
Fictional Objects ready for sprayingProps ready for spraying.
4. Once you have glued them, you spray them in one colour. I like white or black because there is a non-identity aspect of the products once sprayed, meaning they can be anything at this point.
Fictional Object   Fictional Object   Fictional Object
Fictional Object   Fictional Object   Fictional Object
5. Then you begin to analyse it, asking questions like who uses it, how do they live, what is the object for, how does it help them or hinder them. Who are these users, what are their names, where do they live, what is the geography, what are their fears, desires, etc…
This is the storytelling part.
You write a short story detailing exactly what this scenario is.
6. Lastly, you step outside of this mind-space construction, and you bring it to today’s terms. How could this actually work today? What are the emerging technologies that could relate to this object?
How could I actually construct something like this today?
Is there anything similar existing today?
You can take this further by actually making a real, working prototype with electronics and user interactions.
This is a really fascinating method because it helps dissolve the mental constraints we have as designers or engineers and just allow for the possibility of these objects to exist.

Diana Simpson Hernandez 2013.