XR on the Tube. Photographed by Peter Brooks 2019.
Capacity Pills (2019) by BIS Studio.
💫 Course Outline 💫
As our Lozenge soothes, healing often occurs through therapy. Today’s politics has been driven to extreme ends, with violence and lack of understanding from all sides. It would seem that empathy, as a last radical stand, could offer an alternative strategy to many trapped within ideological enclaves.
By crossing the cognitive gap, role play garners an understanding that goes beyond the conceptual, and extends into the lived experience of the other. Design and performance could find a way of processing trauma by prototyping scalable political infrastructures or cultivating affinities as a form of critical empathy. Through empathetic contextual design, we have seen how performance therapy sheds light on today’s entrenched politics and inward individualism.
The digitisation of work has seen labour become increasingly divided into smaller and smaller divisible parts. With the likes of WeWork, Task Rabbit and others, labour has become more precarious as workers are encouraged to self-employ on colossal international platforms, with the effect of deregulating one hundred years of hard fought workers’ rights.
In addition to the fragmentation of labour forms, digital cognitive labour has taken hold. Digital cognitive labour is the pro bono labour offered to the internet’s vast media platforms through our internet browsing histories. With each click we join the billions of bytes of data that will form the next behavioural analysis for advertisement. As our social lives increasingly depend these interactions online, the work we unwittingly subject ourselves to is mined for profit. As such, today’s social foundations are being manipulated by the drive for digital capital. Labour has not only become more fractional but more obscure than ever before.
Alternate history or Allohistory is a major literary genre under speculative fiction and today is explored through Hypertext literature where the use of links in text allows audiences to jump through multiple narratives. Allohistory is also a popular backdrop to contemporary gaming (Fallout: New Vegas; Freedom Fighters; Civilization), providing the basis for much of today’s game theory, sprouting new worlds based on familiar and shared accounts of history.
Alternate histories give criticism to a past already committed to ink on paper. Many historians argue that considering the alternative course of action available to historical actors at a given historical moment has always been a tacit component of historical analysis. In order for historians to develop arguments, they have to consider what options were open to protagonists at the time.
In today’s world of multiplying histories and accumulating perspectives, the need to recover and retake our collective past has never been more urgent. Design has worked and failed too many times for the future hypothetical, allohistory backward speculates to ameliorate our present.
Protests and action-based demonstrations have seen a dramatic re-emergence in the past decade beginning with the first Arab Spring events of 2010 followed shortly by the international Occupy movement in 2011. This decade has seen the rise of the Islamic State, global populism and most recently, the surge in climate protests lead by groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
With so much to be said and with so many feeling disenfranchised, what place does design have in the context of protest? XR’s success can largely be accredited to their canny design and marketing strategies which were able to resonate with a contemporary western audience. Similarly, the #MeToo movement’s use of social media has brought sexual harassment and assualt into nesscessary focus. Design and Architecture is in essence, the master planning of a construction event or aesthetic strategy, coordinating people and materials through space and time, negotiating contracts and planning. What have we learnt from the past decade and how could it be better deployed for protest and political / societal remedy?