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Mollon, M. (2015). Audience Construction & The Uncanny. Presented in Tobie Kerridge (Ed.). Speculation as Design Research. At Goldsmith Design Festival, Goldsmith University, London. (Sept. 4th).
Speculation as Design Research was a symposium organised by Tobie Kerridge, part of the Goldsmith design festival 2015 Oct. O4th. With Luiza Prado de O. Martins, Max Mollon, Alison Thomson.
My initial reply to Tobie’s demand:
In my work, I argue SCD uses design speculations to look into “people's reactions” when facing alternative views to the world they know. Indeed, “people’s reactions are the true product” of these practices – as James Auger puts it, in his thesis. For that reason, I feel the word empiric to echo with the relationship of SCD to its audiences. Empirical Speculation can refer to specific phases of the design process: collecting the audience reactions.
Collecting people’s reactions can occur along two phases: the production & the reception of the artefact.
First, showing the project to potential users allows to crash-test the relevance of a speculation (regarding a specific audience’s background). These experiments allow to test the ability of a proposition to elicit “meaningful reactions” and so, to ensure good reception conditions for the project (eg. avoiding unintended debates). This is close to classical design’s pre-release user-testing, enabling to fine-tune the project. I like to call it “potential-user testing”.
The second step happens in live conditions of diffusion, collecting actual reactions of an audience. To put it in one word, Empirical Speculation is less about verifying the accuracy of a conjecture than its effect on people. It is therefore all about ensuring the relevance of a speculation to a public and collecting its reactions.
For a matter of brevity, we will not go deeper into the questions of unintended debates, and situated audiences, yet.