Anti-solutionist strategies: seriously silly design fiction
Mark Blythe, Kristina Andersen, Rachel Clarke, Pete Wright
Much of the academic and commercial work that seeks to innovate around technology has been dismissed as “solutionist” because it solves problems that don’t exist or ignores the complexity of personal, political and environmental issues. This paper traces the “solutionism” critique to its origins in city planning and highlights the original concern with imaging and representation in the design process. It is increasingly cheap and easy to create compelling and seductive images of concept designs, which sell solutions and presume problems. We consider a range of strategies, which explicitly reject the search for “solutions”. These include design fiction and critical design but also less well-known techniques, which aim for unuseless, questionable and silly designs. We present two examples of “magic machine” workshops where participants are encouraged to reject realistic premises for possible technological interventions and create absurd propositions from lo-fi materials. We argue that such practices may help researchers resist the impulse towards solutionism and suggest that attention to representation during the ideation process is a key strategy for this.
Author: Open Lab