M.C. Dal Pian, B. Fernandes de Souza, D.S. Oliveira, R.J. de Paiva

Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (BRAZIL)
Design fiction is an expression coined by Julian Bleecker in 2009, intended to embrace practices that explore different approaches for conceiving things and creating material objects that help tell stories. These are stories that appear real and legible, yet that are also speculative, offering some sort of reflection on how things are, and on how they might become something else. It is a kind of conflation of design, science facts, and science fiction. Like science fiction, design stories bring into focus certain matters of concern such as how life is lived and how technology is used. They create conversation pieces intended to provoke the imagination, to open a discussion, to explore possibilities and provoke new considerations. “Design fiction is about creative provocation, raising questions, innovation, and exploration.” (Bleecker, 2009).

In the present work we describe the attempt of a group of researchers based at the Digital Metropolis Institute (DMI - Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte - Brazil) to apply the approach of design fiction to the writing of short stories intended to popularize innovations in the field of information technology. Our purpose is pedagogical: to investigate the potential of design fiction to storytelling pedagogy (Dal Pian & Dal Pian, 2015). As a literary genre, short stories contain fictional elements. Also, evidence exists of their pertinence for teaching complex scientific issues (Dal Pian, Cruz & Dal Pian, 2008; Dal Pian, 2014).

The operationalization of design fiction will be exemplified by means of a story in three episodes, each episode being a short story in itself. A mix between fiction and facts is used to compose the drama in the life of a chicken submitted to experiments in the labs of Inova Metropolis, the DMI agency for incubating start-ups in the information technology industry. Along the story, the chicken’s identity alternates from being an actual animal chicken to becoming a super-tech chicken, and vice-versa. The “Energy Chicken”, a fictional but feasible start-up company is used as a scenario for keeping the identity transformations within an acceptable scope for design fiction. We conclude by showing how our design story prompts several issues of relevance for teaching ST&I.