What does the digital future look like? What future scenarios are likely, which ones are desirable? As HCI and design researchers, we are often confronted with questions like these, which require us to speculate about varyingly distant futures. For involving different stakeholders into discussions about future visions, we need to make future scenarios graspable – to overcome existing realities and boundaries, to discuss what is not there yet. One way to do so is Design Fiction, an approach that is based on speculation by depicting a potential, (im-)possible future. Building upon fundamental knowledge about the context or domain we are addressing, we created contextual design fictions, i.e., we used formats that are plausible and appropriate for the context and the users therein, but that speculate via their content.
For instance, we created fictional job postings to facilitate the dialogue regarding factory work of the future, i.e., humans in increasingly automated environments. These job postings not only enabled quick and intensive discussions with the company, whose future work we were addressing, but also worked well with the public, who was not specifically familiar with the factory context.
The value of this approach unfolds when taking it as a starting point for discussion – by articulating (different) ideas of the future, by collaboratively speculating about them, and by provoking thoughts and exposing norms that come with accepting or rejecting specific visions of a technological future.