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Speculative Design as an Approach to Prospect the Future



Dr.Emmanuel Tsekleves (left) and Dr. Min Hooi Yong (right) presenting the speculative designs produced throughout the ProtoPolicyAsia research project intended for old people

In the rapid growth society where the occurring modernisation was once considered as something unrealistic, it has come into realisation that speculating the unfolded future ahead might be relevant to answer the issues that we are and will be facing. More especially in the context of governance with policy-makers being the key-actors in determining the well-being and future of the society, it is important to also involve the citizens within society to imagine the future implications coming from policy initiatives. Amongst many existing approaches, speculative design has been considered as a potential tool to develop future scenarios, where their perspectives will be brought together with the ones of policy-makers’.

Through the “Speculative Design Interactive Seminar” held in Sunway University, Malaysia and under the ProtoPolicyAsia collaborative research project, RDI got the chance to dive deeper and more thorough into the approach, specifically in addressing the ageing society in Malaysia. This has come due to the still-existing barriers between policy and practice, especially since the elders have not actively been included to give inputs throughout the policy-making process. Therefore, speculative design is seen as an inclusive approach for this particular issue, and even in any other issues which consider imagining and speculating probable future as key to determine the initiatives. The participants of the seminar mostly come from ASEAN countries representing various institutions, both public and private sectors.

Participants of the seminar during icebreaking session


Observing the speculative design for elders in Malaysia made through the ProtoPolicyAsia research project

The seminar is concluded by grouping the participants to create speculative design with focus on ageing in society. As it turned out, all of the groups chose “75% of the population is above 60 years old” scheme to start creating their speculative design. After picking the scheme, the groups were required to come up with three “What If” questions which are expected to arise given the chosen scheme. Once the groups of participants have agreed on
their “What If” questions, the next step is to narrow them down into only one question which will further be elaborated into either props or prototypes to make it more appealing and believable to happen in the future. By the end of the process, the participants are allowed to consider their speculative design as either anticipatory or exploratory kind of future.


From left to right: Dr. Ayu Khrisna (RDI Senior Research Fellow), Dr. Emmanuel Tsekleves (ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University) and Sarah Adhitya (RDI Outreach Officer)

The biggest takeaways RDI can get from attending and participating the seminar is that the trends and technologies which keep on evolving as years pass by is the sign that shows how both policy-makers and citizens can come together to prospect into the future through creating speculative design. Thisis due to the realisation of how speculative design allows us to think differently about the world, and even expanding our imagination of it towards more unthinkable and beneficial future for everyone. Seeing how effective this approach is in involving and including citizens into the policy-making process, hopefully Indonesia will soon consider taking this approach as initiative in putting the voices of society into the account.