Lab Report

Once Upon a Future

Debbie Maxwell

The Once Upon a Future Lab engages with the role of science fiction as a means of expressing and exploring our fears, hopes and desires as we design with technology.

The title of the Lab is derived from a two-part evening of stories from the future produced by Design Informatics and Creative Edinburgh, held on the 21st of May 2015 at Warburton Gallery, India Buildings, Edinburgh.

Funded in part by the AHRC Design In Action research hub, and the Skills in Action project, the event used science fictions to explore the role of design in the near and far future. Like Roy Batty, many of our speakers have seen things that will be part of our everyday in the near future. From Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, to c-beams that glitter in the dark, a host of short stories gave us an insight into how unevenly distributed the future really is.

The event also involved a much deeper journey across time from Madeline Ashby, science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant, who provided us with a delve into Gothic Futures.  Located in the Warburton Gallery, Edinburgh, within the prestigious Grade A listed India Buildings, the evening provided a provocative networking event for Scotland’s art, design and technology communities. Illustrations by Kevin Allen featured throughout the night depicting dark scenes of the future.

Once Upon a Future, Warburton Gallery, Edinburgh. Photo: Lindsay Perth.

Once Upon a Future, Warburton Gallery, Edinburgh. Photo: Lindsay Perth.

This extended documentation of the event is made up of 5 parts:

Haunting, Possession, and Magic by Madeline Ashby, an introduction to the role of science fiction in engaging with technology.

The Dreams in the Bitch House a science fiction story by Madeline Ashby.

Four short stories by designers, writers and academics who recited their own stories at the Once Upon a Future event.

Introducing Design Fiction by Joseph Lindley, which sets the scene for a five examples of Design fiction: Game of Drones; If Dishwashers were iPhones; TBD Catalogue; Teacher of Algorithms; and Uninvited Guests.