Future Fiction – Challenging Permanence

Click above to see the full blog post by Stuart Candy.

Click above to see the full blog post by Stuart Candy.

Stuart Candy is the “Sceptical Futuryst”, which is a superb resource of content, opinions, case studies and process. I’ve just begun to go through the site in detail as Stuart is soon to be in Toronto at OCAD University, which is really great news. Below is a great example of futures thinking and design fiction presenting concepts to encourage dialogue away from accepted “norms”.

It’s not only that permanence need not be assumed, but impermanence can actually be embraced.

The above quote is from Stuart explaining the core thesis that the team of collaborators to used to imagine a future capital city of Australia that moves around the country, engaging different communities and encouraging ecological stimulus that can diffuse through the region.

NOTE: Am struggling to embed the document – click here to read.

Decentralized and Distributed

In biomimicry, “decentralized and distributed” is a principle that plays out in many ways. Most recently I was in discussions around materials development that spoke of active feedback/response that would allow function to be integrated physically. Previous to the natural model the thinking had focused on centralized digital sensor to process to action models which were too complex.

The model above of distributed politics, raises a number of amazing discussions. In Toronto there are huge tensions currently over the mayor, with a strong divide between downtown and outer suburb residents. Many debates have re-arisen over the success or failure of the most recent amalgamation that was meant to transform Toronto into a united and efficient single community. Perhaps literal physical flexibility would break down some of these walls?

In America there are huge issues of right and left, but also tensions between the north and south. Could physical transition and engagement encourage interactions that break down these divides? What if Washington was capable of moving every 4 years?

Great case study of design futures / fiction – and an intriguing connection to biomimicry. Very intriguing discussion to add to the Urban Ecology explorations.

Biomimicry: Just Let Go

In my biomimicry classes I am repeatedly asked by students for permission around how they are “allowed” to use the biological models. This is a strange phenomena. In other classes conversations exist around how to find and use inspiration, but in biomimicry it is more specific:

Can I use this organism for my project? I started using X organism, but now I want to use Y organism, is that ok? How many organisms am I allowed to use for this project?

This highlights a problem. Any creative process requires many different tools, methods and approaches in order to achieve a result. When one of those elements becomes constrained by rules, it then influences and impacts the others around it. Biomimicry can have that effect in both positive and negative ways.

Positive disruption from biomimicry

A photo of strangler figs in the forest. Source: Carl Hastrich

A photo of strangler figs in the forest. Source: Carl Hastrich

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Is this Biomimicry?

The classic biomimicry case study. Burrs have hooks, replicate those hooks and bingo = velcro... but is this all that biomimicry offers? Click on the link to see 7 examples of literal biomimicry.

Biomimicry and Abstraction

So… in the scenarios of sustainability I said I was struggling with my vision of a “biomimicry world”. This is not completely true… my struggle is with the sliding vision between literal interpretations and abstraction. I actually think that all the scenarios of sustainability fit in biomimicry, but that is a further conversation.

Biomimicry suffers from literal connections, replicating spider’s silk, mimicking gecko’s feet as tape and the good old burr inspired velcro. But if I suggest that Lego is biomimicry because it “adapts and evolves”by “building from the bottom up” it is hard for many to see that connection. That is just ‘good design’, not biomimicry! People want the literal translation.

The typical example of where this goes wrong is when someone new to biomimicry, floored by the observation in nature, but is then frustrated that they can’t “source” that organism’s shell to layer on the roof of their building. Biomimicry is not that easy, it’s up to you, as the designer/engineer/innovator, to work how to replicate the performance of the organism in your design.

But even that is too limited. If we are only obsessed with performance, we’ll miss the bigger picture.

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