United Micro Kingdom: A Design Fiction exhibition presents multiple perspectives on a fictional United Kingdom as imagined by designers and educators Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.
Now open at the London Design Museum, the exhibition sees England devolved into four self-contained counties or micro kingdoms, each free to experiment with governance, economy and lifestyle. Dunne and Raby use elements of industrial design, architecture, politics, science and sociology to provoke debate around the power and potential of design.
The exhibition challenges assumptions about how products and services are made and used, through reinterpretations of the car and other transport systems. Dunne and Raby interrogate the potential for design borrowing methods from literature and art and apply them to the real world as thought experiments. Their practice uses design to explore the social, cultural and ethical implications of emerging technologies.
The four micro kingdoms explored in the exhibition are:
Digitarians—Digitarians depend on digital technology and all its implicit totalitarianism: tagging, metrics, total surveillance, tracking, data logging and 100% transparency. Their society is organized entirely by market forces; citizen and consumer are the same.
Communo-Nuclearists—The Communo-Nuclearist society is a no-growth, limited population experiment. Using nuclear power to deliver near limitless energy, the state provides everything needed for their continued survival. Although they are energy rich it comes at a price—no one wants to live near them. Under constant threat of attack or accident, they live on a continually moving, 3-kilometer, nuclear-powered mobile landscape.
Anarcho-Evolutionists—The Anarcho-evolutionists abandon most technologies, or at least stop developing them, and concentrate on using science to maximize their own physical capabilities through training, DIY bio-hacking and self-experimentation. They believe that humans should modify themselves to exist within the limits of the planet rather than modifying the planet to meet their ever-growing needs.
Bioliberals—Bioliberals fully embrace biotechnology and the new values that this entails. Biology is at the centre of their world-view, leading to a radically different technological landscape to our own. Each person produces their own energy according to their needs. Bioliberals are essentially farmers, cooks and gardeners. Not just of plants and food, but of products too. Gardens, kitchens and farms replace factories and workshop.
Dunne is professor and head of the Design Interactions program at the Royal College of Art in London. He studied Industrial Design at the RCA before working at Sony Design in Tokyo. On returning to London he completed a PhD in Computer Related Design at the RCA. Anthony was a founding member of the CRD Research Studio where he worked as a Senior Research Fellow leading EU and industry funded research projects. Anthony was awarded the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education in 2009.
Raby is professor of Industrial Design (id2) at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna as well as reader in Design Interactions at the RCA. She studied Architecture at the RCA before working for Kei'ichi Irie Architects in Tokyo. She also holds an MPhil in Computer Related Design from the RCA. Fiona was a founding member of the CRD Research Studio where she worked as a Senior Research Fellow leading externally funded research projects. Fiona taught in Architecture for over 10 years.
Their projects include: Hertzian Tales, a combination of essays and design proposals exploring aesthetic and critical possibilities for electronic products (MIT Press 2005); Placebo, a collection of electronic objects exploring well- being in relation to domestic electromagnetic fields (2001); and Technological Dreams Series: no.1, Robots (2007). Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects was published by Birkhauser in 2001 and Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming will be published by MIT Press in 2013.
The exhibition will be on view at the museum through August 26.