As usual, the ideas start flowing once there's actually something to look at outside of your own head. I started outlining a design theme for the hypothetical online activist platform that Paz and I are cooking up. After I settled on a color scheme and font choice, I mocked up some possible layouts for the website in Illustrator; this forced me to consider how to organize and present the myriad ecological ideas we’ve been throwing around for the past couple months.
I imagined the website featuring a few different “cases” (or “experiments,” “tactics,” or the like) so Paz and I can each present a variety o research. One subject will be Mar Menor and the turbidity goggles Paz described last week, but I've got some other ideas too. I hit upon the idea of dividing each “case” into two sections: a current-day rundown of practical resources and educational graphics, and a more speculative take on how that content might be used in the future. For Mar Menor, this would take the appearance of a post about Paz’s actual research into biomarkers and pollution, followed by whatever object or experiments result from her cyborg-vision tinkering.
Once I wrote out the essential content I wanted to include (basic water chemistry, fracking, testing resources, etc.), I found myself in the enjoyable position of brainstorming SciFi solutions and imaginary technology―in other words, my wheelhouse.
I'll parcel out these ideas in the coming weeks, but here’s one that I particularly like: a lamppost-style alert system that monitors local water supplies with color-coded lights.
Remember, these speculative designs don't have to be engineered to pass the scrutiny of real world investors (though thinking he details through is often entertaining). Speculative design can lead to concrete innovation and unexpected ideas through outrageous what-if scenarios.
The public alert system outline above draws attention to the typically overlooked water infrastructure by erecting a public marker that directly connects to a common resource. The structure includes a transparent window for passersby to clearly see otherwise hidden infrastructure.
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Paz Tornero is an artist, visiting professor at the University of Caldas in Colombia, researcher at the University of Murcia, Faculty of Fine Arts in Spain, and visiting fellow at the Institute of Microbiology (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Benjamin Andrew is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, and Instructor at Pennsylvania State University.