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Speculating Futures in an Age of Nostalgia

Smyth, Michael



This paper will present an exploration of the relationship between the past and the present and how that interaction influences design thinking when speculating about possible futures. It will argue that the growing influence of nostalgia, supported by the exponential growth of data creation and consumption, together with the democratisation of sophisticated tools, has the potential to introduce the unintended effect of flattening the very creativity that is central to design. The key argument is that design is influenced by visions of futures from the past, either intentionally or unintentionally.
The concept of Hauntology will be introduced as a way of framing how visions of possible futures are continually bound up with the concerns of the present which are, in turn, connected to the past through the “spectres of lost futures”. More recently, critics have discussed Hauntology in the context of describing contemporary culture’s persistent re-cycling of retro aesthetics and the subsequent inability to escape old social forms.
In the time that it takes to attempt to recall the name of a TV programme from our past, it is now possible to view original footage on a myriad of different platforms and services. These tools have the effect of making time plastic and stretchable, where the past has never been more accessible. The paper will argue that slowly and imperceptibly we have become beguiled by the increasing capacity to store, organise, access, and share vast amounts of cultural data and that this could lead to a dampening of creativity.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name Cumulus conference: Connectivity and Creativity in times of Conflict
Start Date Apr 12, 2023
End Date Apr 15, 2023
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2023
Online Publication Date Apr 12, 2023
Publication Date Apr 12, 2023
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 20, 2023
Series Title Cumulus Conference Proceedings Series
Series Number 9
Book Title Connectivity and Creativity in times of Conflict: Cumulus Conference Proceedings Antwerp 2023
ISBN 978-94-0149-676XX
Keywords Speculation; Future; Hauntology; Nostalgia; Data
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