Author Archives: dennisppaul

Brief / Main Project

==DISCLAIMER this brief might evolve over time and even serve as an introductary text for publication or exhibition==

Science and speculative fiction in literature and cinema has established itself as a critical mode of inquiry by raising questions on the implications of new (digital) technologies and alternative, future ways of living. Many artists and designers are also crafting, visualizing, and (re-)interpreting fictions, speculations and imaginaries in order to shape, challenge and discuss predominant cultural, social, and technological narratives.

For your main project in our class you will be exploring how creating fictional narratives, building speculative scenarios, and imagining alternative worlds can be adapted for your art and design practices. Based on initial learnings from your short term projects and a deeper recherche into a topic of your choice you will be developing an individual project that is inspired by, makes use of, embraces, and/or breaks with the aesthetics, strategies, and principles of speculation, fiction and imaginaries we collectively encounter throughout our class.

Although fictions are often presented, delivered and narrated through words and spoken language, we as designers and artists should see it as a challenge to explore alternative media, contexts and forms of delivery and may even challenge the assumption of fiction as narration itself.

The process of developing your projects is structured by a series of smaller assignments that you should take as opportunities to progress within your project and create plateaux. Experiment with different tools and strategies for making and thinking, explore various aspects within your topic. Tryout different modes of presentation and storytelling, etcetera.

We will discuss the intermediate steps of your specific projects on various occasions throughout the semester, e.g. in workshops, plenary sessions, and individual feedback meetings.

Finally, we plan to present your projects both in a collectively organized exhibition and a publication after the end of the semester. Although not required, we advise you to at least consider these two formats, exhibiting and presenting in printed form, when developing your projects.

PS { fiction does not necessarily equal science fiction 😉 }

Assignment: Finding Topics

In our session on 2023-11-09 we want to discuss with you possible themes and topics for the art/design work you will develop as part of the class. We encourage all of you to follow your personal interests, to build upon your existing works and research, and/or to engage with themes of other art/design projects that you connect to. Please bring for our next session materials and references related to your theme(s) of choice that you can present to the class. These could be amongst other things books and texts (both fiction and theory), images, films, music, podcasts, or (of course) art/design projects.

Please prepare to briefly introduce your topic and reflect on why this topic might be not only relevant to yourself but also to others who will see your art/design work (3–5min).

Assignment: Collective Reference Recherche

Please collect at least three examples of art/design works that you consider to be relevant for our discussion on Speculation, Fiction and Imaginaries. For each collected reference, consider what you find interesting about it, specifically in terms of how modes of speculation, fiction and/or imagination are used within the work, as well as why the topic is relevant.

Where and how to start is absolutely individual and subjective i.e up to you: maybe google, maybe seek out the library, maybe have conversations. However you do it, there are a few common reoccuring patterns, that you can read upon in a more structured manner at How to Conduct a Recherche?.

Note that a recherche serves more than one purpose. It is not only important for you to get a more precise understanding of what you want to do but it also serves as a collaborative process to grow a deeper or better understanding what the overarching topic of this class is and how it could translate into design/art works. Do not underestimate the positive effects of a continuous ( even if small grained ) exchanges of bits of information. also look for things that others might interest. try to impress the groups with unusual or interesting bits and bobs.

Post your examples on our mattermost channel including a short 1–3 sentence statement explaining why you have chosen to share this particular work.

Let us start a collective recherche!

The Fragments


According to Suvin, a work of science fiction is “centered on a novum” in the sense that it concerns things that are “radically or at least significantly different from the empirical times, places, and characters of ‘mimetic’ or ‘naturalistic’ fiction,” thereby eliciting an impression of “estrangement” from the audience. Moreover, a work of science fiction requires “cognitive validation” in the sense that the things constituting the novum “are nonetheless … simultaneously perceived as not impossible within the cognitive (cosmological or anthropological) norms of the author’s epoch” (Suvin 1979, viii). The two features, according to Suvin, are singly necessary and jointly sufficient conditions of membership in science fiction. The main aim of his book precisely consists in distinguishing true instances of science fiction, which succeeds in generating estrangement through the novum and supplementing it with validation, from putative works of science fiction in which “the predominance of anti-cognitive impulses degrades estrangement to surface sensationalism.” The latter works, according to Suvin, do not deserve membership in science fiction. <<

– Enrico Terrone, Science Fiction as a Genre, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 79, Issue 1, Winter 2021, Pages 16–29,


“Could it be possible for humans to breath underwater?” – so begin the sleeve notes to Drexciya’s inaugural 1997 album The Quest. Emerging in the early 90s alongside figures such as Octave One and Underground Resistance, Drexciya was a second-wave electro duo based in the post-industrial homeland of Detroit techno. Drawing from the history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Drexciya augmented their visionary sound of electro-techno with a retrofuturist mythology of sunken wormholes, webbed mutants and abyssal planes. The music itself was appropriately fluid. Bass that lurched up-pitch like magma through the ocean floor, damp hi-hats and ambient fogs of austere oceanic depth. <<

Drexciya are typically seen within a sub-genre of Afrofuturism – an ongoing umbrella term for cultural practices which entwine futurism, liberation and experimentation through a black cultural lens (what Drexciya call the R.E.S.T Principle – Research, Experimentation, Science and Technology). Whether it be the virological endemics of Octavia Butler’s sci-fi novels, the astro-Egyptian jazz of Sun Ra, or the meditative, hybrid fiction of John Akomfrah’s 1996 documentary The Last Angel of History, Afrofuturism is concerned with instrumentalising the future into a political technique of the present; a method of preprograming ourselves in the here and now, using the aesthetic power of fiction as its metaphysical force. <<

– Inside ‘Neptune’s Lair’: Drexciya, Dystopia and Afrofuturism, Charlie Mills


If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. "Technology," or "modern science" (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the "hard" sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now). If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s- (killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one. It is a strange realism, but it is a strange reality. Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story. <<

– The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin


What I mean by “science fiction” is those books that descend from H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, with threats of an invasion by tentacled, blood-sucking Martians shot to Earth in metal canisters —things that could not possibly happen— whereas, for me, “speculative fiction” means plots that descend from Jules Verne’s books about submarines and balloon travel and such—things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books. <<

– In Other Worlds, Margaret Atwood


It’s time to clarify some terms in this essay, terms which I owe to Carter Scholz. "Category" is a marketing term, denoting rackspace. "Genre" is a spectrum of work united by an inner identity, a coherent esthetic, a set of conceptual guidelines, an ideology if you will.
"Category" is commercially useful, but can be ultimately deadening. "Genre," however, is powerful. Having made this distinction, I want to describe what seems to me to be a new, emergent "genre," which has not yet become a "category."
This genre is not "category" SF; it is not even "genre" SF. Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality. It is a fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a "sense of wonder" or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction.
Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. We could call this kind of fiction Novels of Postmodern Sensibility, but that looks pretty bad on a category rack, and requires an acronym besides; so for the sake of convenience and argument, we will call these books "slipstream."
"Slipstream" is not all that catchy a term, and if this young genre ever becomes an actual category I doubt it will use that name, which I just coined along with my friend Richard Dorsett. "Slipstream" is a parody of "mainstream," and nobody calls mainstream "mainstream" except for us skiffy trolls. <<

– Slipstream, Bruce Sterling


When people think of design, most believe it is about problem solving. Even the more expressive forms of design are about solving aesthetic problems. Faced with huge challenges such as overpopulation, water shortages, and climate change, designers feel an overpowering urge to work together to fix them, as though they can be broken down, quantified, and solved. Design’s inherent optimism leaves no alternative but it is becoming clear that many of the challenges we face today are unfixable and that the only way to overcome them is by changing our values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Although essential most of the time, design’s inbuilt optimism can greatly complicate things, first, as a form of denial that the problems we face are more serious than they appear, and second, by channeling energy and resources into fiddling with the world out there rather than the ideas and attitudes inside our heads that shape the world out there. Rather than giving up altogether, though, there are other possibilities for design: one is to use design as a means of speculating how things could be—speculative design. This form of design thrives on imagination and aims to open up new perspectives on what are sometimes called wicked problems, to create spaces for discussion and debate about alternative ways of being, and to inspire and encourage people’s imaginations to flow freely. Design speculations can act as a catalyst for collectively redefining our relationship to reality. <<

– Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, p.2


Using design to imagine hypothetical worlds as a critical strategy for businesses, whilst expanding public imagination was not prevalent thirteen years ago. In this space of possibility, Superflux willed itself into existence. Superflux is one of the first studios to pioneer the practices of speculative design, critical foresight, design fiction and experiential futures in business; producing impactful futures work for clients like Google AI, Cabinet Office UK, Anthemis, Suncorp, Sony, Samsung, Gov. of UAE, IKEA, UNDP and DeepMind. Parsing uncertainties, weak signals and wide ranging trends, we work with clients to imagine and build future worlds they could experience in the present moment. Such visceral engagement with multiple possibilities not only opens up undiscovered opportunities and helps identify blindspots, more significantly such imagination-led futures work enables strategic, informed and long term decision-making. <<
Founded by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern in 2009, Superflux is a boundary-defying, award-winning design and experiential futures company, as well as a research and art practice. From climate change to algorithmic autonomy, future of work to more-than-human politics, our work aims to confront diverse audiences with the complex and deeply interconnected nature of the challenges we face today. We invite clients, collaborators, communities and wider participants to remain open to multiple possibilities and navigate precarity with active hope. For our 10+ years of contribution to the fields of speculative and futures design with a committed social mission, Superflux received the Design Studio of the Year Award in 2021. <<

– Superflux,


The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed. <<

– William Gibson in an interview on Fresh Air, NPR (31 August 1993) {unverified}


Whenever you are presented with a new technology, you should ask yourself what a policeman, a politician or a criminal would do with it. furthermore whenever you see a policeman, a politician or a criminal with a new piece of technology ask yourself what you might do. <<

— William Gibson at Ars Electronica Festival, 1990,


We make products from your futures in order to help you imagine what could be. We work with commercial, consumer, and community futures. <<

– Near Future Laboratory,

SHORT TERM PROJECT: Imaginary Devices ( Brief )

Our discussion of Fictions, Speculations, and Imaginaries will start with a practical exercise:

For the coming two weeks each of you will develop an imaginary hardware product that might exist in an alternative present, a near or distant future, or a parallel dimension.

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Important Information

  • the frist meeting is on THU 2023-10-19 10:00 in room 3.10.020
  • the seminar is comprised of two M-MA-2/M-MD modules. please sign up for both.
  • by default and until further notice, it runs the entire thursday from 10:00–18:00


(Stewart Cowley: Starliners: Commercial Spacetravel in 2200 AD, 1980 (cover))

The class Fictions, Speculations and Imaginaries is concerened with exploring the ways in which artists and designers are crafting, visualizing, and (re-)interpreting fictions, speculations and imaginaries in order to shape, challenge and discuss predominant cultural, social, and technological narratives.

It is a joined class by Henrik Nieratschker and Prof Dennis P Paul. All participants are strongly advised to join both classes.