Syllabus: Researching The Future Everyday

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Arundhati Roy, 2005 World Social Forum

DCM170, Eindhoven University of Technology, Department of Industrial Design
Academic year: 2022–2023; Semester: B; Quartile: Q4; ECTS: 5
Canvas link (TU/e login required)

Dan Lockton,,
Lenneke Kuijer,
Emilia Viaene,

Welcome to Researching the Future Everyday (RtFE for short). This is the latest iteration of a course which has been running since 2018, an Industrial Design Master’s elective at TU/e. This page outlines, week-by-week, what we’ll be covering.

When we imagine “the future” we are not acting in isolation: we are doing our imagining in a broad sociological and cultural context which influences what we believe to be possible or desirable. As designers, we are also often in a position to make “our” visions of futures come into being, in conjunction with technological innovation, but also against a backdrop of a world facing significant crises and transitions, in climate, health, inequality, social justice, and biodiversity loss. How can we negotiate these vast questions responsibly?

This course combines a speculative and critical design approach, drawing on work in experiential futures, with insights from other disciplines, in the arts, humanities, and social sciences (and in fiction) addressing aspects of how people imagine everyday life in different futures. This enables using design methods to explore alternative, transformative perspectives on futures, with a foundation of knowledge and insights beyond design itself. The three broad theme briefs set for the projects each engage with research being undertaken by the teaching staff, and we will make use of these links during the course, for example with a visit from researchers on the IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability project. Not everything we cover over our nine weeks together will directly be applicable to your project(s), but we hope that it increases your repertoire of ways of thinking about the world, ultimately informing your practice.

Mainstream design education and practice often carry taken-for-granted ideas about relations between design and changes in everyday life, usually centred on a model of “the user” which neglects wider societal and cultural dimensions, and questions of responsibility. Interaction designers have much to learn from other disciplines, in terms of insights on the impact of design on everyday life, and theoretical perspectives on these relations; equally, designers, by materialising imagination and making it experiential and engageable-with, and using design methods to enable others to imagine and express their own imaginations, have something distinct to offer the field of futures.

By combining knowledge from other domains with designerly approaches to ‘futures’, the course guides and equips you with the knowledge, skills and attitude required to address our current and future societal and global challenges in new ways.

We hope you will enjoy the course, and we are looking forward to working with you.

Dan, Lenneke, and Emilia
April 2023

Header image: Toroidal (doughnut-shaped) space colony, illustrated by Rick Guidice, for NASA Ames Research Center, 1975

Learning outcomes and deliverables

OutcomeHow demonstratedHow assessed
You are familiar with the concepts of imaginaries of futures, how design research can engage with these, and the potential of design as a way to evoke, materialise, and influence imaginaries.Research article
Blog post
Group (research article) and individual (blog post)
You are able to synthesise and integrate of aspects of theory and critical practice from other domains (including, potentially, futures and foresight studies, science and technology studies, cultural and historical perspectives, and fiction) that concern themselves with the roles of technology and designed elements in everyday life, to inform the development of an experiential futures project.Research article
Blog post
Group (research article) and individual (blog post)
You are able to design, develop (and if appropriate, deploy) an experiential futures research project embodying meaningful critical research questions, in a way such that you can make a critical knowledge contribution to design. Prototype/exhibit/experience
Research article
Group (both prototype and research article)
You are able to reflect critically on your role as a designer in relation to futures—and society more widely—with reference to insights from the course materials, your project, and your own personal and professional development. ReflectionIndividual
Prototype/exhibit/experienceThe format of your prototype/exhibit/experience is very open: it can be a research product that you ‘deploy’ with people, a performance or experience that you enact for exhibition visitors, a website, or many other things—as agreed with your coach. 32.5%: group
Considered throughout the course, not solely based on the final exhibition. This is to enable different formats of projects to be valued based on their qualities and fit with the particular brief.
We will ask you to submit a “catalogue description” of your project before the final exhibition, for the website and printed catalogue.
Blog postThe blog post is intended for you (individually) to share your thinking and ideas about the theme you’re working on, and your process, in a short (500–750 words, illustrated) article which is intended for an external audience, i.e. readers who are not necessarily familiar with the course. This will be posted on the RtFE website. 17.5%: individual
Submission: Week 5, Friday 26 May.
Submit via posting to the RtFE WordPress site, with a PDF on Canvas for archival purposes. We will help with the WordPress posting if you are not familiar with it.
Research article The research article for RtFE can take a broader range of formats than the usual ACM templates, although the pictorial formats do seem appropriate. We will introduce you to some relevant conference and publication types, but in general it should be around 4000–6000 words. The article should describe your interpretation of your topic of concern, your theoretical or cultural perspectives regarding future everyday life derived from the readings and source material, the question(s) you explored and how they are embodied through your prototype/exhibit/experience and how it was enacted or deployed, and your reflections working towards new knowledge regarding future everyday life and the role of design that emerged through your process. 32.5%: group
Submission: Week 10, Thursday 29 June.
Submit via Canvas.
ReflectionYour personal reflection is an 800–1000 word piece in which you consider the course and the learning objectives, with specific reference to your group project, and reflect critically on your role as a designer in relation to futures—and society more widely—with reference to insights from the course materials, your project, and your own personal and professional development. 17.5%: individual
Submission: Week 10, Thursday 29 June.
Submit via Canvas.

Before the course and during the course

Some of the exercises and activities we will do during the course place you into the role of a time-traveller from 2038, while others are set firmly in 2023 (occasionally looking into the past too). Sometimes this time-shifting might be confusing, but the ability to think from different perspectives about futures and time is also something that can be a useful practice.

During the course, there will be a number of parallel activities. We’ll watch, read, and listen to some fiction about futures, and play some small creative games. These are not part of your assessment, but they will help to introduce you to different ideas and ways of thinking, and we hope that you’ll participate.

We have two small pieces of work to do before the course starts:

Images of the Future
Collect and add some images to the Miro board (you should have received the password). In preparation for the first week of Researching the Future Everyday, we’d like you to collect some images that:

—1. represent ways in which ‘the future’ is imagined (in design, tech, media, fiction, popular culture…), and

—2. show something of how you imagine your own life/role as a designer in the future (how you would hope it to be, or perhaps not). This second question is more difficult. Do you envision your own life differently to the popular images of futures?

Think of it like a collective mood board or collage of ideas. You can find images using Google, or sketch them, generate them, however you like. We will make use of some of the images in class, and also potentially later in the course.

A mysterious letter
Before the course starts, you will also receive a mysterious, official-looking letter via email. You must take its instructions seriously.

Plurality Statement
(Adapted from a statement produced by Dr Marysol Ortega Pallanez, Carnegie Mellon University)

Our learning space is a place of abundance where all of us have a wide collection of skills, strengths, vulnerabilities, and experiences. We all benefit from sharing our various forms of difference (gender, sex, sexuality, dis/ability, age, socioeconomic status, religion, national origin, language, ethnicity, race, and culture), which makes us capable of being teachers and learners. Your suggestions on how to actively shape the learning environment are encouraged and appreciated. Please let us (Dan, Lenneke, Emilia) know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

Week 1:
Knowns, unknowns, and imaginaries

Tuesday 25 April 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

In week 1, as well as getting to know each other—and how we imagine (the) future(s)—we get to know a bit about what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we know, or indeed don’t know we don’t know.

The programme:

Part 1

Part 2

  • Workshop (Dan Lockton): Imaginaries, pasts and presents of futures

By the end of Friday 28 April, you should express your preferences for your theme via the form.

Intermediate assignment: things to watch, listen to, and read:
— Watch: Episode 1 of Extrapolations (2023), ‘2037: A Raven Story’ (link on Canvas)
— Listen: ‘Mother of Invention’ by Nnedi Okorafor, read by LeVar Burton
— Read: Leah Zaidi (2019). Worldbuilding in Science Fiction, Foresight and Design. Journal of Futures Studies, 23(4): 15–26 (link on Canvas)
— Further reading relevant to the workshop today: Mark Fisher (2014). ‘The Slow Cancellation of the Future’ in Ghosts Of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books. (link on Canvas)

Image: Screenshot of Getty Images search results for ‘future’

Week 2:
Futures Literacy for Transformation

Tuesday 2 May 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

In week 2 we’re joined by Josie Chambers from the Urban Futures Studio at Utrecht University, for a talk and workshop on futures literacy for transformation. We’ll explore multisensory approaches to thinking about futures, and seek to ‘break’ the futures cone.

We will also discuss your project structure and Emilia Viaene will explore how you can embody a research question in your project.

Intermediate assignment set: Start exploring (with your group) the Miro template for your project plan that Emilia introduced.

Read the papers and watch/listen to the other media, related to your theme.

Some further (optional) readings relating to today’s talk/workshop:
— Astrid C. Mangnus, Jeroen Oomen, Joost M. Vervoort, Maarten A. Hajer (2021). Futures literacy and the diversity of the future. Futures 132 (link on Canvas)
— Noura Howell, Britta F. Schulte, Amy Twigger Holroyd, Rocío Fatás Arana, Sumita Sharma, Grace Eden. (2021). Calling for a Plurality of Perspectives on Design Futuring: An Un-Manifesto. CHI’21 Extended Abstracts. (link on Canvas)
— Jessica Bland and Stian Westlake (2013). Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow: A modest defence of futurology. Nesta. (link on Canvas)
— Nathan Holbert, Michael Dando, Isabel Correa (2020). Afrofuturism as critical constructionist design: building futures from the past and present, Learning, Media and Technology, 45:4, 328-344. (link on Canvas)
— Peter Hayward and Stuart Candy (2017). The Polak Game, Or: Where Do You Stand? Journal of Futures Studies 22(2): 5–14 (link on Canvas)

Image: Montage of Sun Ra images: business card from JR on Flickr (CC licensed); Sun Ra & Arkestra by JPRoche on Wikimedia Commons; screenshot of Space is the Place (1974).

Week 3:
Artefacts from the Future + Reading Rooms

Tuesday 9 May 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

This week we do three things:

Part 1

  • Exploring design fiction methods and the idea of ‘artefacts from the future’, both physical and digital (Dan Lockton)

Part 2

  • In your groups, meet your coaches

Part 3

  • Reading Rooms with Emilia Viaene

Assignment set: Midterm blog post (individual) and half-pecha kucha

Arrange visit to see exhibition spaces

Image: The ‘time-travelling hipster’—a 1941 Canadian photo.

Week 4:
Social practices and the future of data

Tuesday 16 May 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

This week we have three parts to the class: two talks, and a chance for your to share your groups’ initial thinking on your projects. Your blog post, set in Week 3, will be due on Thursday 18 May.

Part 1

  • Lenneke Kuijer talks about social practices and everyday futures

Part 2

  • Emilia Viaene introduces us to the Future of Data and Automated Decision-Making

Part 3

  • Coaching and Half-pecha-kucha: 10 slides, 20 seconds each slide show & tell from each group. You have 200 seconds, i.e. just over 3 minutes, to give us a glimpse of your thinking so far.

This week, we’ll ask for volunteers for a student focus group to discuss/evaluate the course so far.

Image: Two excerpts from impressions of life in the year 2000 by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists, France, 1899–1910, issued as cards in cigarette packets. Here we see ‘Electric Scrubbing’ and ‘A Tailor of the latest fashion’.

Week 5:
Provotypes, mediations, and contested futures of sustainability

Tuesday 23 May 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

This week we have special guests from Oslo Metropolitan University, Marie Hebrok and James Lowley, who will talk about the IMAGINE project and their work on contested futures of sustainability. James will run a workshop on Provotypes and Mediations, an approach to exploring futures and design which has been trialled with Master’s students in Norway.

Following the workshop, we will have coaching in your groups.

Image: A future of wine and cheese, from an OsloMet Provotypes and Mediations workshop

Week 6:
Transitions and Emotions

Tuesday 30 May 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05

Special guest Femke Coops, design researcher at the Design Impact Transition Platform at Erasmus University Rotterdam joins us to talk about Transitions and Emotions.

Following Femke’s talk, we will have coaching in your groups, and you can visit other groups to get a sense of each other’s progress.

Assignment: Start preparing your pages for the exhibition catalogue

Weeks 7 & 8:
Preparing and Playtesting

Tuesday 6 June 2023
Tuesday 13 June 2023
13.30–17.30, Metaforum Zaal 05 and in exhibition space

These two weeks we’ll have coaching, and time for preparing and playtesting or deploying of your projects.

On Tuesday 6 June we will take a moment to explore personal futuring.

On Tuesday 13 June (subject to confirmation) we will have a chance for some projects to be trialled with “real” audiences at the Transdisciplinary Research, Education, and Dialogue Conference at Wageningen. More details to follow.

Final preparations for the exhibition

Week 9: The Exhibition

Tuesday 20 June 2023, 13.30–early evening Exhibition venue (TBC)
and Thursday 22 June, optional, 10.00–12.00, TBC

Our course culminates in the exhibition.
We will also have an optional Reflection session on Thursday morning, in which we can reflect on the exhibition and discuss your plans for your papers with your coach.

Assignments: Final group paper (including webpage), and individual reflections. Due Thursday 29 June


Image: Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939–40, San Francisco (Wikimedia Commons)