uture Technology Products imagines inclusive futures through the creation of artworks as “products” inspired by diverse voices in science fiction. Artists and technologists are invited to critically engage with ethical and political questions raised in diverse sci-fi through the hands-on creation of technologies within these texts. The site currently features a collection of three objects from its premier project Digital Alchemy by Mirabelle Jones: More of What You Want (The Influencisizer) inspired by “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by James Tiptree Jr., e-Protea inspired by “From the Lost Diary of Treefrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor, and It’s Time We Talked (Quantum Crystal Communicators) inspired by “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” by Ted Chiang. These objects explore and extend ethical themes raised by the texts including surveillance, data mining, gaze tracking, biofeedback, sustainable technology (e-waste) and deep fake technology.
Whose Future Is This?
There has been a long and rich history between science fiction and the development of new technologies. From virtual reality to teleconferencing, science fiction has left its ongoing influence on our present day device-driven world. But technologies are not neutral: they are imbued with the values of their creators. What are the implications, then, if many of the works of sci-fi which we see attributed to modern technologies were penned by authors of the same gender, sexual orientation, and race? What are the implications if the same dominant voices are overwhelmingly centered in the design and development of new technology products? Who gets a voice in creating the future and who gets excluded?
Critical Engagement Through Making
Future Technology Products addresses the existing inequalities embedded in technologies by exploring diverse alternatives through hands-on inquiry. By engaging with speculative works written by a diverse body of authors including women, LGBQTQAI* folx, and people of color, we engage with questions pertinent to realizing diverse futures found within these works including questions which may have been historically underrepresented in industrial design and development practices. Situated at the intersection of speculative design, educational activism, science fiction, and HCI, the project seeks to assist artists in embedding questions found within these literary works into artworks in the form of interactive prototypes. The resulting installations and sculptures provide for hands-on critical engagement with ethical and political concerns raised by the texts while inviting public engagement through physical and virtual exhibitions and educational opportunities.
Education as Activism
In addition to exhibiting artworks with supportive documentation, this site offers a calendar of free ongoing workshops and a library of open source beginner-friendly tutorials that describe the making process. These educational tools seek to address the lack of comprehensive public knowledge around technologies which are increasingly present in our lives though less frequently understood. Workshops are offered in collaboration with local arts institutions such as Catch: Center for Art, Design, and Technology Education and research entities such as Artsformation. These workshops combine discussion with skill-building exercises to address contemporary ethical issues in technology through tangible explorations and knowledge sharing.
The project was started in Fall 2020 by artist and AI Ethics PhD researcher Mirabelle Jones through an artist’s residency at Catch supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union in a collaboration with the Feral Labs Network. The resulting exhibition Digital Alchemy has been closed due to COVID-19 for its duration with exception to the exhibition’s opening presentation. FutureTechnologyProducts.com provides an opportunity to visit the exhibition Digital Alchemy online while extending the conversations and questions raised in the exhibition and inviting artists from around the world to participate.
The platform is open to all artists, makers, scientists, writers and creators who seek to explore questions proposed by diverse works of science fiction through a process of making as thinking and technological art as activism. Please get in touch if you are interested in contributing.