Our research invites distributed communities to reflect on and contribute to the design of future technologies. We are developing online platforms that explore crowd-based storytelling as a new research approach at the intersection of design fiction and creativity support tools.
Focusing on drones as an increasingly available, yet somewhat contentious technology, we developed an online platform, DreamDrone.org, for drone ideation and storytelling, inspired by our in-person design fiction workshop with local drone hobbyists.
The users of our platform can start creating a fictional drone by first adding up to four superpowers (or features) to their dream drone (the drone they are envisioning). We use the term “superpower” to inspire contributors to think beyond feasibility and reimagine what is possible. Users can create their own superpowers or select superpowers that were submitted by previous users to support ideation by enabling users to combine and re-mix ideas. After adding superpowers, the second step of our platform prompts users to create a meaningful name for their dream drone. Users are then asked to write a dream drone story (a scenario about their drone) describing the world it operates in, the locations it flies, and who it interacts with.
We distributed our platform to online communities of drone enthusiasts, inviting them to build on what others created and/or envision new drone superpowers, as well as to speculate on future scenarios in their dream drone stories. Our data revealed the needs, aspirations, and fears of the drone community, ranging from new or improved drone features to different contexts and scenarios for drones, as well as desires and concerns for new technologies beyond drones. Throughout our data analysis, the emergent themes served as touchpoints for critical reflection amongst the research team to consider issues around human relationships with anthropomorphic technologies, as well as systems for security, surveillance, policing, and transportation.
Dream Produces, Spaces, and Services
Throughout our work with DreamDrone, many users expressed aspirations around other types of technologies beyond drones. To support crowd-based design fiction beyond drones, we developed the Dream Collective that invites users to collaborate on fictions about Dream Products, Dream Spaces, and Dream Services.
In a series of follow-up workshops with designers, we are exploring the implications of the visions we are collecting. As our current work moves towards polished prototypes from the collected ideas, we will be reflecting on the question: what can designers learn from crowd-based storytelling, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of using this approach to reflect on design and envision new systems?