Design for Debate

Jennifer: National Science Week in Western Australia was marked by the visit of London designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby to Perth. Dunne and Raby use scenario thinking to create designs for different technological futures.

“Design For Debate”, coordinated by SymbioticA, was a public discussion on the social, cultural and ethical impacts of existing and emerging technologies on everyday life. Dunne and Raby believe that designers need to decide collectively which futures are the least harmful, and to create designs according to the needs we will encounter in these more desirable futures.

I was particularly taken with the concept of “Designs for fragile personalities in anxious times”. This exhibition of 2004-2005 includes objects designed to alleviate irrational but real anxieties, such as the fear of alien abduction and nuclear destruction. “Hideaway Furniture” is designed for those who fear being abducted. Each piece of furniture can be opened without disturbing the objects on top of it and the owner can occupy the space inside in poses very unlike the foetal position. The poses encourage the owner to feel comfortable and in control.

“Spymaker”, exhibited in 2007, explores the impact of surveillance technology on our everyday lives. Dunne and Raby’s creation, the “em-muzzle”, is based on scientific research being carried out into re-mapping sensory input to different parts of the brain. The blinkered muzzle for dogs connects the part of its brain repsonsible for its sense of smell to an antenna which senses electromagnetic fields. The dog can then guide its owner to areas free of CCTV and electronic monitoring.

Dunne and Raby’s designs are exhibited internationally, and are featured in permanent collections at MoMA and Fnac- the Fond National d’Art Contemporain- in Paris.

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