Mylene Petermann

Research Group: Centre for Research through Design
Award studied: PhD

Project title

Discursive artefacts: the role of critical and speculative design practices in explorations of the near future of emerging technologies


As emerging technologies, from robotics, biofabrication to the Internet of Things (IoT), are developed at an accelerating pace, this process leaves few opportunities to explore potential economic and socio-cultural consequences of these technologies.
The aim of this study is therefore to evaluate speculative design practices, such as techniques and artefacts developed in critical and speculative design or design fiction. More specifically, the study will evaluate the capability of these practices to envision future use contexts and potential applications for emerging technologies, as a way to understand the social context in which emerging technologies are placed as well as a way to generate alternatives to current product and service paradigms.

For example, critical design challenges assumptions and preconceptions about the role products play in everyday life using speculative design proposals. However, critical design lacks a coherent discourse around what is meant by 'criticality' as well as theories and methods, which would allow a broader adoption within mainstream design. Speculative artefacts as 'critiques' feature mostly as part of academic discourse or in museums and galleries. As such, it has been argued that these artefacts are not reaching its audiences, for example other design practitioners who are closer to the commercial context.

The study therefore seeks to trace and define the techniques through which speculative artefacts are created as a basis to develop a method and framework which can be applied as part of the research process in mainstream design. Furthermore, the framework will be tested by introducing the method as well as speculative artefacts to companies developing technologies and applications. It is expected that the result will enable companies to rapidly explore future use contexts of emerging technologies by materialising and visualising the near future.


Funding received


"Life Support" by Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen, 2008