2024 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: 2023–2024; Semester: B; Quartile: Q4; ECTS: 5
Canvas link (TU/e login required)

Dan Lockton, d.j.g.lockton@tue.nl,
Lenneke Kuijer, S.C.Kuijer@tue.nl
Emilia Viaene, e.m.j.j.b.viaene@tue.nl

with Femke Coops, f.coops@tue.nl and Sacha Prudon, s.a.c.prudon@tue.nl

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 and research staff, and we will make use of these links during the course, for example with links to the IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability project. Not everything we cover over our nine weeks together will directly be applicable to your assignments for this course, 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, Emilia, Femke, and Sacha
April 2024

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 date: [to be added].
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 date: [to be added].
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 date: [to be added].
Submit via Canvas.

Before the course and during the course

As a warm-up before and during the first session, we’d like you to collect & share some images on the Miro board (link emailed to you):

—1. How did you imagine ‘the future’ when you were younger? (e.g. maybe ideas from movies, cartoons, technology, popular culture…) and consider What do you think about those ideas now?

—2. How do you imagine your own life in the future, now (how you would hope it to be, or perhaps not). This second question is more difficult. Do you envision your own life differently to 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, AI-generate them, however you like. We will make use of some of the images in class, and also potentially later in the course.

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, Femke, Sacha) know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

Week 1:
Imagining futures in an age of change

Tuesday 23 April 2023
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

In week 1, as well as getting to know each other—and how we imagine/d (the) future(s)—we have a short intro to the history of futures and how they have been imagined.

By the end of Friday 26 April, you should express your preferences for your theme via the form.

Intermediate optional assignment: things to watch, listen to, and read:
— Watch: Episode 1 of Extrapolations (2023), ‘2037: A Raven Story’ (link on Teams)
— Watch The Kitchen (2023) on Netflix, if you have access
— 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 (on Teams)

Image: Screenshot of Getty Images search results for ‘future’. What does the telescope metaphor offer us—and what problems does it have?

Week 2: Encountering Futures

Tuesday 30 April 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

Brainstorming and planning your project (with your groups)—with Emilia Viaene.

Workshop / activity on design fiction, speculative design, and artefacts from the future (Dan Lockton)

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

Assignment set (due 21 May): Your individual blog post

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

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

Week 3:
AI, Nature, and Justice

Tuesday 7 May 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas -1.310 [note this is a different room to usual!]

Part 1

We’re joined by Joycelyn Longdon, an award-winning environmental justice researcher and educator, PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge and founder of ClimateInColour, an online education platform and community for the climate curious, making climate conversations more accessible, diverse and hopeful.

Joycelyn’s research centres on the co-design of justice-led conservation technologies, specifically bioacoustics, for the conservation of tropical forest ecosystems, working with rural forest-fringe communities that are commonly excluded from conservation and technology research.

Part 2

  • In your groups, meet your coaches

Image: Screenshot of the Climate in Colour Instagram

Week 4:
Futures in Practice and the Future of Data

Tuesday 14 May 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

Part 1

  • We’re joined by Eva Oosterlaken, co-founder of Futurall, to talk about the studio’s work in foresight, people research, creative outputs and activations.

Part 2

  • Emilia Viaene introduces us to the Future of Data

Part 3

  • Coaching

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:
Utopias, Art, Politics

Reminder: your blog post is due today!

Tuesday 21 May 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

In week 5 we’re joined by Josie Chambers from the Urban Futures Studio at Utrecht University, for a talk and workshop on Utopias, Art, Politics—and an attempt to ‘break’ the futures cone together.

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

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 6:
Designing spaces for letting go + Qualitative Data Analysis

Tuesday 28 May 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

Part 1

We’re joined by Kristina Bogner from the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, who together with Femke Coops will lead us through the emotional and personal aspects of transitions to different futures.

Part 2

Lenneke Kuijer will discuss ways to do qualitative forms of data analysis in your projects. We will also introduce your paper assignment.

Part 3


Week 7:
Preparing and playtesting your projects

Tuesday 4 June 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas –1.825

This week we’ll have coaching, and time for preparing and playtesting or deploying of your projects.

Final preparations for the exhibition

Week 8: The Exhibition

Tuesday 11 June 2024, Kazerne

Our course culminates in the exhibition which we are aiming to combine with an event for the IMAGINE project—meaning a greater number of external visitors to see (and interact with) your projects.


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

Week 9: Debrief and Discussion

Tuesday 18 June 2024
13.30–17.30, Atlas -1.210 [note this is a different room to usual!]

This final week is a debrief and discussion session in which we can reflect on the exhibition, and discuss your plans for your papers with your coach. We might also explore personal futuring a bit further.

Your research papers (group) and individual reflections are due 27 June 2024 on Canvas

Image: The Little Twin, project by Elke van Dael, Anusha Ravishankar, Hanna Rixtel, and Vere Vreeswijk at the 2023 RtFE exhibition