First 2022 Masterclass: Laura Forlano on Making Critical More Than Human Futures


Yesterday we started the new cycle of Masterclasses with a great beginning: Laura Forlano on “Making Critical More Than Human Futures”. The lecture had more than 60 participants, involving the students from the Master in Service Design, other Masters’ students from the Elective Path, (the internal lectures exchange program of, and external professionals, students, and professors from all over the world.

The premise was clear since the beginning: designers are being challenged to find new ways of engaging in broader socio-technical systems and, at the same time, emerging technologies are changing the practices of design. But what does it mean? How do you study people, things, and societies that don’t exist? To answer these questions, the lecture extended the knowledge and methods of design based on 10 years of scholarship and practice that demonstrate a critical, participatory, and speculative engagement with futures. It drew on theories around the posthuman and the more-than-human in order to understand new conceptualizations of knowledge and expertise, new inventive methodologies as well as new ethical and political concepts in the design. Of course, these approaches are effective in daily life, for example, the ongoing pandemic.

Are we really going back to “normality”? Will we face the so-called “new normal”? Well, maybe there’s no normal at all since all the pandemics in history have marked a point of no return to the “old” world. The current situation is a perfect example of how humans are forced to break with their past and imagine their future world. In other words, “Everything must be redesigned, starting with ourselves”. All this uncertainty opens up incredible new possibilities and what-ifs opportunities. To come up with possible directions, Laura showed examples including smart cities and autonomous vehicles, robots and the future of work, networked medical devices, and computational fashion; all of them in the framework of the critical futures approach. The lecture also integrated new inventive methodologies such as autoethnography, thing ethnography, and multispecies ethnography as well as design futures methods such as stories, scenarios, and experiences.

Thanks to a mixed formula, we had interactive moments since the beginning, as we started with a powerful and engaging warm-up exercise aimed at creating a cooperative spirit between the participants. Laura also launched some quick individual exercises to give them the possibility to firsthand experiment how the practices of critical and speculative design could be valuable in anticipating, imaging, and designing critical futures. In the last part, we had an open discussion where participants asked questions to Laura and shared their thoughts about the topic presented during the Masterclass.

We want to thank again Laura Forlano for her brilliant lecture and all the participants who took part in this first appointment. We remind you that the next Masterclass will be on Thursday, February 17 with Roberta Tassi, Yulia Besplemennova, and Francesca Foglieni working on Enhanced Service Design Methods and Tools. Applications are open!

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