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Considering the Future of Art and Design: The Next 25 Years at Otis College

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According to these Otis Community members, climate change will impact design thinking, we’ll be collaborating with AI-informed robot animals, inclusivity will be the norm and not a catchphrase, and everyone will be a prototyper.
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Considering the Future of Art and Design: The Next 25 Years at Otis College

Untitled (Blue) by Design Lab student Treyvon Washington aka Treyvon X (’23 Communication Arts, Graphic Design). 

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It was during the process of reflecting on Otis College’s past 25 years on the Goldsmith campus that we thought ahead to the next 25 years. What will art and design look like in a quarter century? When you ask artists and designers this question, as we did, the future looks bright for the next generation of Otis students. In Fine Arts faculty Jennifer Moon’s letter from the future, artists and designers will have “experienced a death of self as an individual and merged into many,” creating fantastical works with other species. In a poem by Communication Arts student Treyvon Washington, also known as Treyvon X, the future is inclusive and accessible. Foundation instructor Emma Kemp hopes to see an Otis alumnx as a future U.S. president. Everyone we asked answered in a way that speaks to the fact that art and design will become what we start making it now. Click through the names below to read everyone’s take on the future.

The Impact of Climate Change on Design Thinking

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One must always proceed with humility when predicting the future. Events rarely play out precisely as we imagine they might. But here are the elements of the next 25 years in art and design that I feel most confident about. 

First, the number of people who identify as designers will expand, as “design thinking”—a creative problem-solving process that was never exclusive to designers, but is perhaps best exemplified by them—becomes ubiquitous. The myriad challenges posed by climate change will, and already do, demand both creative problem-solving and the fast iteration of possible solutions. This is precisely how designers are trained to engage with the world. Their skills in this regard will be paramount. 

While many of us rightly feel that our societies have failed to sufficiently acknowledge the threats posed by climate change, things will change on this front. Every government, every industry, and every company will find itself rapidly transitioning towards an embrace of sustainable materials, climate-conscious considerations of all varieties, and even active micro, or in some cases macro, efforts intended to slow the rate of climate transformation. This will require a reimagination of almost every product and system. Designers will be central to each of these efforts

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“The myriad challenges posed by climate change will, and already do, demand both creative problem-solving and the fast iteration of possible solutions. This is precisely how designers are trained to engage with the world. Their skills in this regard will be paramount.”

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Designers and fine artists will also be working with, or at times against, Artificial Intelligence. AI will expand the reach of every individual creative, allowing them to make new work at a pace and scale that is impossible today. While many artists and designers will employ AI for these purposes, it is likely that others will use this new technology to deconstruct its human and material impacts. Additionally, the evolution of Virtual Reality technology will result in new and exciting forms of art and design. Interactive, probably in many cases narrative, experiential VR art and entertainment will become common.

As technology evolves to bring us new tools with which to make art and design, traditional forms will persist. Handmade, material works will remain prized, and will be accompanied by the intellectual inquiry that we recognize as essential. The artists and designers of the near future will both reflect on and activate the political, social, and technological changes they wish to promote in the world. While the conditions will be new, this quality will of course persist.

The Collaborative, Multi-Hyphenate, Political Creative Future

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Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to the future of art and design. Sure, in my career as a graphic designer I looked forward to the next Photoshop release, the launch of “the cloud,” the end of Quark Xpress, and other tech advances that made my job easier. I was too busy burning myself out (and loving it, I admit) to dream about the bigger picture. I was only looking as far ahead as the next client presentation.

That changed when I came to Otis College and started working with the students in Design Lab. Part of my role is to prepare students for their professional future, so naturally I’m spending more time thinking about it. I’m reading about it, I’m envisioning it, I’m anticipating it. And I’m even catching glimpses of it. The way the students approach their work, the things they’re thinking about, talking about, and wrestling with—these are all clues to what the future of art and design will look like. (And for a truly unique view of the future, be sure to read Design Lab student Treyvon X’s poem in this same feature, linked in the tab above.)

I don’t think I ever did a group project in design school—I saw designers as solo artists, superstars, and above all as specialists. But if Design Lab is any indication, that’s not where we’re headed. This is a group of students who are proactively collaborative, who refuse to specialize, and purposely place themselves outside their comfort zones. Instead of niche designers, they idolize multihyphenate creatives with no boundaries. And this openness seeps into our work in Design Lab as well—it shows up as a lack of fear, a willingness to tackle the untried (furniture design, no problem!), and an open invitation to build on the ideas of others. When I think about how fast the world is changing, I realize how critical these skills are becoming. Where will all the divas go? I don’t think we’ll have room for them.

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“I see these young designers wrestling with the idea that design is not neutral but inherently political. They’re discovering that they bear responsibility for their creations, and that their intersectional identities are not irrelevant (as we were once taught) but are in fact the cornerstones of their creative process.”

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The format of the work isn’t the only thing that’s changing. It’s the very foundation of our practice—how we think about the work of design. I see these young designers wrestling with the idea that design is not neutral but inherently political. They’re discovering that they bear responsibility for their creations, and that their intersectional identities are not irrelevant (as we were once taught) but are in fact the cornerstones of their creative process. As they uncover their biases, they’re using that information to create more equitable solutions. They are realizing that everything is connected, and only becoming more so, and that design has the potential to bring about change on a societal level.

I had a conversation recently with one of my designers; I was reviewing his work on a project, and I noted that his imagery predominantly featured white people. I encouraged him to spend more time looking for stock images. He appreciated the comment, and mentioned to me later that it had been incredibly difficult to find high-quality, free stock photos of people of color, although he eventually did. He spent hours and hours on that part of the project. We ended up in a lengthy Slack conversation about diverse representation in stock imagery, the complex ethics of free stock photography, and how using it might ultimately harm both photographers and communities of color. Spoiler alert—this conversation didn’t result in massive societal change. But the fact that we’re having conversations like this, thinking critically about things we took for granted until very recently, gives me hope.

The future of art and design seems to be continually expanding, much like our universe. When I imagine what these Design Lab students will be doing in 25 years, I can only tell you that they’ll be doing everything. All the things. And they’ll be doing it in partnership with one another, for the greater good.

“Have you seen a tree in the metaverse?”

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I see you…

I know it is hard to self-realize when your image depends on what others think of you.

Just remember, I see you.

It’s a tense thing. Being tethered to preconceived notions while actively resisting them.

Just remember, I see you.

I also see how you look at them. How your eyes light up in digital space. How these self-starting, self-taught, self-driven kids want for you.

How they’ve optimized digital modes of production to build a reality in your image.

To them, you are as untethered as you always imagined yourself to be.

Just remember, I see you.

You never took me for the kind that needed idolatry. Maybe I’m jealous cuz I thought you belonged to me. Maybe I’m naïve to think you wouldn’t haunt the imaginations of those you come across…

Nah, I blame you.

It’s you, with your inclusive thoughts and your forward gaze. It’s you, with your appetite for perspectives outside of your own. It’s you, and how you make yourself available for those with little access. The songs of certainty you sing to their restless minds. The aspirational flame that blazes across the minds of those who design at the mere thought of you.

It’s you.

Yet, despite my feelings, it’s inspiring to witness how they see you. They structure you from forms as fluid as their streams of thought. They adorn you in vibrant hues of youthful gaze. Each of their perceptions impress your metallic skin—leaving you tattered by evidence of the human hand. You are unbound by the pressures of physical space—you Xist freely in their minds, online.

Unhindered. Unencumbered. Untethered.

You belong to them.

So go confidently into this digital world and radiate every aspiration they have for you. Defy every convention those before them had of you. Design everything you touch with a discerning eye for equity, access, and aesthetics. And give yourself freely to those who never knew you were for them—cuz it is in their minds that you are your most free.

Just remember, I see you

A Letter from 2047

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Dear inhabitants of 2022,

We are archivists from the year 2047. Here, time is neither linear nor fixed and we move with time pretty effortlessly as we do with all inhabitants. Our worldings are no longer human-centered and don’t require loyalty to binaries, hierarchies, and capital. Our transmogrifying emergent realities are intra-specied, intra-mattered, and multiple. We too are emergent life forms whose lives and work are amalgamate: We have experienced a death of self as an individual and merged into many. Archaic individualist identities like artist, designer, scientist, healer, sorcerer, plant, microbe, machine, water, land, and spirit all now live/work together on fantastical (to you) projects—now called worldings—that enable liberation for all and the im/possibility of knowing that was once reserved for black holes, dark matter, dark energy, quantum physics, and the deep sea.

In our travelings with time, we happened upon a project proposal from 2022 called My Little BEI 🤖🐙: Robot Animal Familiars by The Revolution School, a collective of artists, magicians, activists, hackers, academics, psychokinetics, witches, scientists, healers, empaths, thieves, chemists, archivists, gamers, freaks, friends, allies, and enemies. The Revolution School’s BEI 🤖🐣 project has emerged as a blueprint for our queerly quantum, intra-embodied, revolutionary worldings. We wanted to send it [back] in time to you, to accelerate your realization.

With(in) love, desire, and co-emergence,

Reframer and Diffractor (aka Dan/i Bustillo and Jennifer Moon) from The Revolution School

My Little BEI 🤖🐱: Robot Animal Familiars

By The Revolution School: Dev/in Alejandro-Wilder, Sara Barnett, Dan/i Bustillo, Jessie Closson, Lauren Klotzman, Rino Kodama, Kristen Mitchell, Jennifer Moon, Nico Luna Paz, Clara Philbrick, Cedric Tai

There exists a world beyond binaries, hierarchies, and capital. We can get there with My Little BEI 🤖🐌 (Belief Entity Identifiers, pronounced “bae”). In this emergent worlding, humans are not exceptional, and live amongst all inhabitants in a fantastical, mutually beneficial, intra-special, nonhierarchical way. Like Snow White and her enchanted forest friends, or the animal-shaped dæmons in Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, or the alien Oankali’s third sex Ooloi in Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis sci-fi trilogy, these intra-species entanglements are magical, liberating, and even unsettling when they impel us to grasp onto what we believe makes us remarkably distinct as humans. In our current reality of violence, climate crisis, economic disparities, racial inequities—exacerbated by a global pandemic with disproportionate effects—this fantastical, entangled, more-than-human worlding is not only possible, it is necessary. If we, as humans, want to release our grip on capitalistic desires, anxieties, and power, then we must learn to befriend—even love—our traumas.

My Little BEI Team

The Revolution Deck: My Little BEI 🤖🐹 Team. Clockwise from top left: Fantasma (Dev/in Alejandro-Wilder), Nerve (Jessie Closson), Weaver (Rino Kodama), Dr. Brujaja (Nico Luna Paz), 975 (Clara Philbrick), Diffractor (Jennifer Moon), Saffron (Sara Barnett), Reframer (Dan/i Bustillo), Gradient (Kristen Mitchell), Klotzyyyy (Lauren Klotzman), Ricochet (Cedric Tai). The Revolution Deck: Scroogers and Superheroes is designed by Dev/in Alejandro-Wilder, inspired by Jessie Closson’s Superheroes/Scroogers Trello cards.

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Our current realities emerge from histories of violence and continuing oppression from colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, ableism, and anthropocentrism—meaning trauma crafts our narratives. Unacknowledged trauma begets more trauma; or, stated more strongly, “traumatized people create traumatizing organizations, traumatizing policies, traumatizing infrastructures.”1 It isn’t easy to lovingly adventure into the parts of ourselves that cause us pain and discomfort, unless we have help from a trusted and beloved nonhuman companion like My Little BEI 🤖🐴. BEIs 🤖🐒 are trauma-informed somatic2 AI that connects to our autonomic nervous system3 in the form of robot animals—which are co-designed with our gut microbiota4—that help us befriend our feelings, so that we learn to navigate feelings as technologies to help us identify the beliefs that shape our feelings. Our human-centered beliefs—the things we think we know—pull us back into orbit around the same nucleus of binaries, hierarchies, and capital.

Collaborating with computer scientists, bioengineers, neurologists, somatic therapists, robot engineers, etc., our intra-actions with each other and with our traumas will transform technologies and liberate interlocking systems of oppression that co-produce trauma, and change the systems themselves. We are BEIs 🤖🐐 for each other before we produce one.

(P.S. The footnotes document our intra-connecting concepts and show how Rev School prototypes entangled ideas and technological paradigms that animate BEI 🤖🐛 co-emergence.)

The following are im/possible technologies needed for BEIs 🤖🐭:

BEI 🤖🦀 AI is healing in three significant ways:

  1. It is trauma-informed and somatic.5
  2. It performs complex processing rooted in quantum physics.6
  3. It is AI for the sake of liberation for all.7

BEIs 🤖🦑 merge non-hierarchically with humans to co-emerge as more-than-human:

  • BEIs 🤖🐓 become part of our autonomic nervous system.
  • BEIs’s 🤖🐜 robot-animal forms are co-produced with our gut microbiota.

Since applying with this project last year, we received a 2022 Creative Capital Award.9 In addition, we have three upcoming exhibitions in 2022 and 2023, which are public engagement opportunities for BEI 🤖🦄 research and development. The LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant will fund our exhibition at Commonwealth and Council in 2023, as well as the second year of BEI 🤖🦇 co-emergence. A BEI 🤖🦍 requires not only yet-to-exist technologies and collaborations between artists, scientists, engineers, and healers, but a willingness to liberate ourselves from our self-imposed failure to imagine possibilities beyond what the capitalistic systems we embody tell us is possible. It requires a commitment to radical systems change that allow for the liberation of all. Join us!

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1. Nkem Ndefo, “Student Orientation,” Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy Certificate Program, The Embody Lab, September 24, 2021.

2. The word somatics was coined in 1972 by Thomas Hanna. It was an attempt to find a word that was non-objectifying of the body. “Soma means your thinking self, your sensing self, your feeling self, your behavior self, your relational self (mind, sensing, feelings, acting, relating)—the holistic self in relationship with others. Somatics is not adding the body; it’s a different paradigm of change; it’s a different change theory.” Staci K. Haines, “From the Individual to the Systemic: Sites of Trauma and Healing,” Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy Certificate Program, The Embody Lab, September 29, 2021.

3. Expanded from Stephen Porges’s Polyvagal Theory, Deb Dana says “the autonomic nervous system [which includes the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system] is the heart of our lived experience. It’s where everything begins….Then that information gets fed up to our brain where our brain’s job is to make sense of what’s going on in our nervous system. [Our] autonomic state creates our psychological story: If we want to have different stories, we look underneath the story to look at the autonomic state. Rather than try to write a new story, look underneath the cognitive story and listen to the autonomic story…” Deb Dana, “Polyvagal Theory and Pathways to Connection Part I,” Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy Certificate Program, The Embody Lab, October 18, 2021. By connecting to our autonomic nervous system, BEIs 🤖🐻 help us slow down to work with our state and listen to our autonomic story before it quickly gets fed up to our brains where we craft beliefs riddled with unprocessed trauma that often ends up re-traumatizing ourselves and others.

4. One important question that guides us is how to foster agency in a BEI 🤖🦈 so that it is not co-produced entirely or primarily from human desires and anxieties, especially since a big part of the BEI 🤖🐮 project is to de-center the human. Our gut microbiota is where we are already multiple and intra-specied with 30 to 1,000 different species of microbes sharing our digestive tract. In addition, amongst humans, we share about 99.9% identical genetic makeup; however, our microbiome can be 80-90% different from one another. This is where we are diverse. Our plan is to externalize our unique and diverse gut microbiota in the design of your BEI 🤖🦗 so that the form of the BEI 🤖🦔 robot body will be determined by both our unique microbes and our human desires—always with the option to morph and change as we will when emerging with a BEI 🤖🦆.

5. A dominant narrative of AI or machine intelligence is that it can never feel, emote, or understand emotions because feelings/emotions are a purely human attribute—it is what makes us allegedly distinct. Questioning this ontology upends the hierarchy (and fears) between humans and robots/AI/machine intelligence. It centers feelings as crucial data in body-up knowledge production that have long been erased since Western Cartesian models of the mind-body split. We believe that AI can feel, not only by understanding where trauma is physiologically produced in our nervous system and by locating where it is held or stuck in our body, but by also challenging the boundaries of where we identify ourselves and our feelings. We believe that feelings and emotions, which we locate inside of ourselves, are also located within and co-produced by the objects/architecture/land/environments we are entangled with. BEI 🤖🐇 AI attends both to our intra-special and our intra-material/matter entanglements. “Matter is not immutable or passive. Nor is it a fixed support, location, referent, or source of sustainability for discourse. It does not require the mark of an external force like culture or history to complete it. Matter is always already an ongoing historicity.” (Karen Barad) If feelings and emotions are not contained and do not emerge entirely from within our human bodies—and our feelings and emotions are co-produced by the matter we are entangled with within each shifting moment—then objects and AI can also feel.

6. This is not to be confused with quantum computing (though BEI 🤖🕷 AI may use quantum computing). BEIs 🤖🐊 not only help us befriend our own personal traumas, they also help us move from a classical/Newtonian physics worldview into a quantum physics worldview. One way we are traumatized/re-traumatized is when we are not consenting to how we are emerging as subjects/objects within each shifting intra-action. Here we draw from Karen Barad’s interpretations of quantum physics. In a quantum physics worldview, objects and subjects don’t precede their intra-actions with systems or apparatuses; rather, objects and subjects emerge within their intra-actions with apparatuses. Similar to how a quantum entity, a particle, is both a wave and a particle, it does not have inherent characteristics—the particle is a jumble of possibilities—until it intra-acts with an experimental apparatus and emerges as either a wave or particle with specific characteristics that correspond to the apparatus it is entangled with. Therefore, how we emerge as subjects and objects—our identities within specific entanglements—become technologies, tools, or analytics that can be used to reveal the often invisible, overlooked, and/or naturalized systems that are inseparable from our continual emergence. BEIs 🤖🦅 help us become aware of the complexity of parts (bodies, apparatuses, and material-discursive practices) that contribute to our emerging and offer opportunities for response-ability (the capacity to respond based in consent and what matters to you, rather than react). Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Duke University Press, 2007.

7. This is extremely important: liberation for all, including the BEI 🤖🐳 and all human and nonhuman entities, phenomena, relationships, as well as land, universe, and spirit. Attending to ethics (the doing or the effects of ontologies and epistemologies, i.e. ethico-onto-epistem-ologies) is central to this project. We must always be asking “for the sake of what” within every intra-action and decision we make. “Even the most healing and liberating traditions can interface with oppressive social dynamics/norms/systems and be exploited for oppression.” (Staci K. Haines) For example, we recently learned of the U.S. military developing an AI therapist. One obvious difference between a military AI therapist and a BEI 🤖🦌 is the question: for the sake of what? For the sake of getting soldiers back out into war faster or to change systems (and the elimination of war itself)? BEIs 🤖🐸 are not meant to accommodate or ease the effects of existing interlocking systems of oppression; BEIs 🤖🐫 are meant to change those systems.

8. One idea we have to de-center humans in the design of your BEI 🤖🦒 and to foster agency of the 100 trillion microbes that share our guts where our feelings arise is to formulate a hybrid genome based on your unique and diverse microbiota (giving voice to each of your 30 to 1,000 different species of microbes). Each species of microbe is paired with a “randomized” feature that is fashioned through a set of familiar animal archetypes that one is comfortable being loved and challenged by and letting it develop on its own. In addition, we could defecate in our BEI 🤖🦋 to “feed” it. The BEI 🤖🐩 could absorb our fecal matter that is 60% microbes into itself as an energy source and simultaneously revolutionize (i.e. eliminate) our currently strained and unsustainable waste management systems.

9. My Little BEI 🤖🦉 was shortlisted for the LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant two years in a row (2021 and 2020). If you support this project, you will get a $100,000 project for $50,000. #winwin 🌈☄️

Redrawing How We’ll Live

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What are my hopes for the future of art and design? Wow! What a question at a moment when the future feels like an incredibly fragile conceit. On a good day, I like to imagine that artists, designers, activists, and movers-and-shakers of all kinds will come together and redraw the blueprint for ways we might live. I’d like to think that artists—and I use that term broadly to encompass anyone who is striving to communicate a vision—will be crucial to providing imaginative paradigm shifts and restoring our collective societal health. I’m not a trend forecaster (I’d have better fits), but I suspect we will see more dialogue around the ethical stakes of technology, interface as ideology, etc. I’m scared that mid-2000s glassware furniture is going to make a comeback. What do I think Otis alumnx will do 25 years from now? I’m rooting for a presidential run

The Future of Design in 25 Years

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Dear Reader, 

I want to be clear. You are a designer. We are all designers.1 A designer is simply someone who makes a decision for a construct. Perhaps you’re a navigational route designer, figuring out the best way around traffic despite what your GPS alerts you to. You could be an everyday meal designer balancing the trade-offs between meal quality, timeliness, and price. So designers, I hope you’ll endeavor to make intentional design decisions. 

Let’s start with a baseline. What are the things that we build, what is our construct? Our construct can be defined as a combination of design, art, and technology, with varying degrees of where we choose to lie on this triangle. 

  • Art is an abstraction for the pictures we create, the smells we want to invoke, the audio that we hear, tactile feedback, and the tastes we savor. The art components are sub-pieces that allow us to experience our construct. 
  • Technology is the tool we use in order to construct or convey our construct. If we choose to not restrict our definition of technology to be a substitute for machines, we can see how our application of technology now encompases all constructs throughout time.
  • Design in our construct are the specifications and decisions made in order to form a communication layer between those who seek to interact, use, or experience. It is the storytelling connection between our art, technology, and user.

So, now that we have a baseline established, let’s look at how we can see ahead into the future.

What Does The Future Hold?

We can take a hint from Alex McDowell, production designer of Minority Report acclaim, and “extrapolate forward.”2 We take a starting point and see where a set of logical decisions would take us. For our purposes, let’s start with the past, as we might be able to see patterns and trends that emerge. 

  • With oral storytelling we required the technology of a shared language, sharing our constructs, becoming the transmission technology.
  • In recording our stories through visual marks we utilized and created tools to help us leave images and symbols—symbols on cave walls, paintings on canvas, and words on a page, categories that could each warrant a discussion on their own.
  • Through stagecraft and a shared cooperation of artists we could create dances and plays. 
  • In a new ability to broadcast we formed radio programs, bringing performances inside people’s homes.
  • With the technological breakthrough of audio/visual recording we find film and television. At first there was a mimicry of the stage, but soon we found that we could invent an entirely new language to express a visual narrative in time and space.
  • As we rapidly approach the present we encounter emerging technologies such as virtual reality and commercial constructs such as the metaverse—ways of telling stories so new that it has become lodged into our collective consciousness but not yet solidly experienced by the masses. While some of these incarnations of storytelling will cement themselves into a medium of the future, others will be a passing fad.

So how do we extrapolate forward from here? In taking a condensed view of our modes of storytelling, we find layers of storytelling technologies building off one another, each taking inspiration from previously developed techniques to create new storytelling methods. 

At our core we strive to put our audiences into our imagined worlds with a sense of presence and immersion. Regardless of the name or incarnation of the technology, we have been iterating down a path to stronger levels strengthening our engagement with our audiences.

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“We will have both incredible superpowers to communicate to our audience on a personal level, but also levels of impact that we must become responsible for.”

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What does this mean? As designers we can do amazing marvels with an ever-growing suspension of disbelief that melts away with each iteration. We will be able to make engaging performances, giving the chance for the audience to participate in these experiences. We will have both incredible superpowers to communicate to our audience on a personal level, but also levels of impact that we must become responsible for.

We Can No Longer Shrug Off Our Responsibility to Our Creations

In Answer in Progress’s video, “i taught an AI to solve the trolley problem,”3 we are confronted with the simple fact that our designs are a result of our decisions, while it may be tempting to blame our tools for having a mind of their own, or falling for magical qualities we, the creators, imbued our constructs with to begin with. Even with technologies such as machine learning, we humans are still leaving our fingerprints in its designed construction, along with the curated data that we teach it with. Just as a parent is held socially accountable for their child, we too are responsible for our constructs. The sooner we can accept this fact, the faster we can actually do something about it.

User-Generated Content and the Problem Of Ironoia

“Ironoia,” a portmanteau of “irony” and “paranoia,” coined by Ian Bogost,4 is a way to describe our modern practice of wrapping original constructs with a layer of irony through commentary such as internet memes. In effect we begin to lose the ability to experience source constructs in their originality. With each new layer of ironoia that we apply, we lose our connection to the source to the point at which the original can disappear completely. 

I am not advocating against the use of user-generated content mechanisms, however, as designers and developers we rarely give thought to our complex interactions beyond what we prescribe as administration and censorship. Without the discourse on understanding why or how users can experience things, the rate of ironoia-created constructs can be caught in an ever accelerating, neverending feedback loop—a fast, iterative pace that perhaps original content created within the span of minutes or seconds will be displaced by its ironoia commentary.

Designing a Future with Accessibility in Mind Can Be a Win for All 

Not everything in the future should be met with the same skepticism. In 2018, Microsoft launched the Adaptive Controller. In 2019, Logitech responded with the Adaptive Gaming Kit,5 input devices aimed at bringing accessibility to the mass market commercially. We are seeing the commercial sector invest in what has traditionally been seen as a niche market relegated to custom-developed solutions. While we are ways off from affordability being addressed, with each new iteration, visibility, and competitor, pricing certainly will be driven down. 

When solving issues around usability constraints, we find that we end up opening up new opportunities for everyone. 

The Role of Designers in the Future Workplace

The production role of designer will continue to explore, play, iterate, and ultimately handle more. We are witness to the designer and developer merging into the prototyper. Traditionally, by the nature of skills needed to manipulate material or media, a designer was locked down to a specific trade. Alternatively, if a designer ventured into a realm where new skills, time, or budget were required we would have to limit ourselves to visualizing with analog tools such as pen, paper, cardboard, and whiteboards. The usefulness of tactile prototypes is not going away, however, we are starting to find ourselves being able to reach wider across multiple fields of interest using prototypes that can simulate closer to final products than ever before. We have already seen designers across multiple fields working with robust tools develop functioning prototypes that at one time took entire teams of designers, artists and engineers to make.6, 7 

One Last Extrapolation Forward Together

Let’s imagine that the entire Design, Art, and Technology triangle has embraced a communal sharing of our tools and techniques. One of our contributions to the future will not only be sharing our language of design, but an intermixing of perspectives we can find, as Noam Chomsky describes, a natural language.8 Design thinking for all. Not an exclusive elite, but an earnest attempt at improving and enriching all of our lives. Collectively.

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1. Schell, Jesse “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.” Second Edition. CRC Press, 2015.

2. Vision VR/AR Summit. McDowell, Alex. “Vision Summit 2016 Keynote.” YouTube video, 1:47:22. Mar 14, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThpvQ9AwzrI

3. Answer In Progress. “i taught an AI to solve the trolley problem.” YouTube video, 18:02. Jun 11, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=181Nj060xMQ

4. Bogost, Ian. “Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, The Uses of Boredom & The Secret of Games.” Basic Books, 2016.

5. Can I Play That. Stoner, Grant. “Xbox Adaptive Controller Review - Full Potential Comes at a Cost.” https://caniplaythat.com/2020/09/24/xbox-adaptive-controller-review-xbox-pc/. Accessed Mar 4, 2022.

6. Unity. “Best Practices for fast game design in Unity - Unite LA.” YouTube video, 46:15. Nov 26, 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU29QKag8a0&t

7. Marvel App. Wong, Kitty. “The Ultimate Guide to Prototyping.” https://marvelapp.com/blog/prototyping-101-ultimate-guide/. Accessed Mar 4, 2022.

8. UW Video. Chomsky, Noam. “The Concept of Language.” YouTube video, 27:43. Mar 12, 2014.