UPDATE: A full write-up of the summer school has now been posted on Medium, here and has been archived on my blog here. This includes all videos from guest critics which are also archived below.

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In July 2016 with Tobias Revell I will run the first speculative and critical design summer school in London. Below is an interview with me published on the LCC blog giving some context to the summer school. UPDATE: Also students reflect on the SCD Summer School below:

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UPDATE: Guest Critic Video Archive:

Paul Graham Raven (writer, theorist, critical futurist) kicked off by introducing concepts of narrative, scenarios and world building. He also began introducing the vexed problems of futuring, utopia and dystopia which often come up in the borderlands of thinking speculatively about how design and technology might proceed.

Dr Georgina Voss continued this trail by picking up on ideas of imaginaries and intention in imagining and then building the future, talking about how worlds are often unintentionally willed into being by rendering and policy.

Dr Dan Lockton continued with this line of how intent is embodied through design in a talk around design for behavioural change and it’s history in designing the future.

Dr Catharine Rossi then took us back to a historical line for radical approaches to design through the activities of the Italian Radicals, drawing parallels with the institutional and political contexts of design then and now.

Ai Hasegawa (MIT Media Lab) Anab Jain (founder Superflux) and David Benque (Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK) came to talk about their practices. Although all RCA Design Interactions graduates who use a form of speculative and critical design (no caps) in their practice, they showed the participants different approaches of bringing this practice to research and industry and different models for operating in the ‘attitude’ of critical thinking.


Ai Hasegawa — MIT Deisgn Fictions Group

Anan Jain — Founder SuperFlux

David Benque — Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK

Finally, Nicolas Nova came to talk about design fiction — another often affiliated term — and his practice with Near Future Laboratory, providing another insight into how these practices interlock with the existing design establishment.

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Blog Interview:

In July 2016, Programme Director Ben Stopher and Course Leader of BA (Hons) Information and Interface Design Tobias Revell will be leading a Speculative and Critical Design Summer School short course exploring speculative and critical design.

We caught up with Ben to find out a little more about the course, what it offers, and who it’s aimed at.

Ben, this course initially sounds quite specialist. Is there a particular type of person who this Summer School would work best for?

“This course is really well suited to someone like a design professional looking to update their ways of working, methods and understanding. Speculative and critical design is a key part of the contemporary design landscape, but perhaps it didn’t exist as a distinct thing when they went through their design education.

“The Summer School will introduce them to new practitioners, new tools and new ideas that will refresh their creative practice. Alternatively, a current PhD student looking to extend their methods into speculative and critical design would be really well placed to be a part of the Summer School.”

Can you speak a little about the structure of the course?

“The exciting thing about this course is that it’s two weeks to come and work in London, meet some really interesting practitioners working at the cutting edge of their field, work with new methods and produce something.

“During the first week all the guest critics come in, and in the second week you will be working on speculative prototypes. You will also exhibit work at the end of the two weeks in an exhibition. It’s going to be a very intense and hands-on way of working.

Course Critics:

Anab Jain, (Superflux)

Dr. Georgina Voss, (Strage Telemetry)

David Benque, (Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK)

Dr. Catharine Rossi, (Kingston University)

Paul Graham-Raven, (University of Sheffield)

Nicolas Nova (Near Future Laboratory & HEAD – Genève

Are there any specific areas or themes that will be covered in the Summer School?

“Yes, the course has three key themes: infrastructure and systems, the anthropocene and network politics.

“Infrastructure and systems is really exploring how the deployment of design at a wide scale interacts and builds the infrastructure and systems that define our contemporary life. Speculative and critical design is a way to interrogate the effect of these systems on society and look at the future trajectory of those things.

“The anthropocene looks at that on a macro scale. This is a geological age where the primary force changing the world is human beings. We’ll look at planetary scales through human actions and what that means in a design context – how do you understand design’s role in that age?

“Network politics is really about the new social imperatives that any hyper-connective world gives rise to. The internet of things, and the human consequences on a wide scale for societies and economies in general. The dissolution of national borders, cryptocurrency, the legality of data – all of those live issues around what the network really means for design.

“On this course you can work between those themes, explore and actually produce whilst engaging in and creating design fictions.”

At the end of the Summer School what can people hope to have learnt?

“By the end of the two weeks you will have a concrete and critical understanding of the field of speculative and critical design, its methods, key practices and central principles. You’ll be able to conduct future-facing design research and ideation and be able to create demonstrative design fiction projects that communicate complex design, technological and socio-cultural ideas.”

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Find out more about Speculative and Critical Summer School and Booking.

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