In a deeply capitalist, white supremacist, and patriarchal world, how might we frame for a habitat where better futures emerge, instead of depicting future landscapes that leaves little room for emergence?
Habitat VS Landscape: When it comes to landscapes, we often think of their aesthetic appeals and pictorial representations. In a colonial setting, natural landscapes have been reconstructed according to human needs over and over. The landscape is objectified by human, and human have power over it. But a habitat should not be a human’s object. It is a breeding ground for emergence of multiple lives and deeply interconnected relationships. It holds the power of unknown complexity over human. When we are imagining alternative worlds, we need to see them as habitats, the conditions for new possibilities, instead of landscapes with little room for changes.
But before framing for the future conditions, we need to learn and unlearn about the past. The past is layered with multiple contexts, ideas, positionalities, events, figures, terrains, ownership, etc. Understanding the histories of a place often gives us a clue of how things come into existence/erasure, and what bigger ideas or isms opened up spaces for their transformations.
And to avoid perpetuating the displacements, exclusions, erasure, appropriations of the pluralities from the past into the future, we need to examine the existing power structures, unlearn the white-supremacist and patriarchal mindsets, and give birth to non-western, abolitionary, queer, inclusive, and equitable visions to challenge and even subvert the old ones. By subversion, we are not looking at flipping things upside down, but removing the need for the dominant power to exist and to envision the possibilities for a pluriverse where co-existence subverts colonization, queerness subverts homogeneity, equity subverts racism and classism.
You'll be guided through the call of nature, and a deep reflective but rewarding process.
Appendix: Positionality of me and my work
Speculative future design is the futuring methods I learned about and used the most throughout my life as a designer.
I am interested in building future worlds with participatory tools that
disentangle designers with the privileges, the partial perspectives and situated knowledge they have through participatory approaches
allow people who know nothing about futuring to practice the approach
open up a space for that welcome different ideas, stories, experiences, and visions.
In order to
show people outside of the design field their power to combat biases and mainstream perspectives in future design process
inform designers how they can approach visions of more equitable designs with participatory research
gather a collective narrative of a more equitable future to challenge the dominant paradigm in the world
a collective envisioning session for a more equitable and reciprocal future.
*I am also open to showcase work that are in similar spaces with this project. Feel free to reach out!
At the end, you would be able to weave together a collective narrative of a future that is non-anthropocentric, non-colonial, and abolitionary.
The project is planing to launch a virtual exhibition in New Art City of multi-sensorial narratives inspired by the envisioning sessions.
I want to invite people in the space of learning about their relationship and position within the society to think of and share their visions of Futures through the lens of their experiences in NYC public green spaces.
To de-perpetuating the power structure in the design and futuring process, I want to curate a collective narrative of people who does not fall into the space of following the mainstream, capitalist, patriarchal, and human-centric design values. They might not have the knowledge of terminology, jargon, methodologies we use as designers, but they have the things that are crucial to build relationship, empathy and compassion, that is their senses, their stories and experiences.
“The process of acquiring knowledge begins as partial perspectives, and specific ways of seeing emerge. The more of such partial perspectives and cultural narratives we gather, the closer we get to objective observations. Situated knowledge, therefore, stands against the unlocatable, the disembodied, and the irresponsible.” ——Donna Haraway. I am aware of my own biases and ignorance, and I am aware that they are inevitable. So in my work, I want to invite biases, encourage conversations and understandings.
The aim of the project is not to showcase a glossy future in some people's vision, but to inform a larger group of people in the field of design and design future about the power of a collective narrative and visions by people without their power and privileges that have the potential to subvert the dominant paradigm.
But how do we translate those abstract and academia languages to them? What experience can be brought to them?
"If you want to know about what is the dominant paradigm, just look around you." Says Alnoor Ladha, an indigenous political strategist, writer, activist.
People perceive the dominant paradigm with their senses. It's hard to define it with their own words, but they FEEL it and they EXPERIENCE it everyday. Therefore feeling and experience is a major part of this exercise.
The first part of the session is led through a soundscape of nature's spiritual calling. You may access the script here. By asking people to held hands with each other and stands in circle while listening to it, it repositions the participants in the room and in the world as being a part of a larger interconnected whole, instead of atomized individuals.
Another thing to be noted is that since time is a western and colonial notion, I want to subvert how people perceive "duration" of the exercises by relating to the nature-related experiences. Like instead of saying the soundscape would last almost 5 minutes, I use "the time it takes a snail to crawl 3.3 inches" by roughly calculate an average snail's speed. And by saying the workshop will take 1 hour- 1 hour and a half, I'd say "the time it takes you to see the first light of the sun until it goes fully above the horizon". Instead of saying I don't know how long it would take for the exciting conversations, I'd say "the time it takes an orb-weaver spider to repairs a broken web" because normally it takes a spider about 30-60 minutes to weave one, but we are unsure about how long it takes to repair one, and the whole point is acknowledging this uncertainty.
For the second part, which is the core exercise. I want people to think about the future by reflecting on their past experiences first. Learning from Be an Anti-Racist, a journal for awareness, reflection and action, written by Ibram X. Kendi, future envisioning should not be a destination, but a journey led by questions. By having people reflecting on their experiences based on a space that they are the most familiar with, I would ask what connection and disconnection they have with the space, and what actors they think are missing in the space. They can be groups of people, living beings, plants and anything that could be on the land. And then they need to imagine a future where those missing subjects can form the connection and never the disconnection with this space. What values/knowledge need to be shifted? What could stop the shifts from happening? And by thinking through all that, we'll reverse the whole process. By removing the barriers, shifting the values/knowledge, the missing actors could forge the connection with the land as you do again.