Global Futures Lab

The Global futures lab projecT

Critical design, speculative design and design fiction are methodological frameworks in which objects are seen as facilitators of conversations rather than goods to be bought or used.

Bruce Sterling has defined design fiction as “the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change.” Speculative objects, then, help people understand the future consequences of present choices perhaps even more effectively than virtual images or written text, and consequently, enable them to engage with transformation over time.

In the last decade, an impressive creative effort has been dedicated to this field, producing countless scenarios and fostering rich debates about ethics, technology and society. The vast majority of these future visions were and still are, however, a representation of the fears and the dreams of a limited part of the global community. Further, the aesthetic of this work has drawn liberally from the Hollywood imaginary or the design establishment’s style.

The Global Futures Lab is a series of international workshops that aims to counteract the bias and stereotypes of so-called “Western futures” and foster different futures linked to specific geo-cultural
locations. Students from Isfahan (Iran), Ahmedabad (India), Lima (Peru), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Havana (Cuba) were invited to reflect on their environments, traditions and beliefs, and to envision futures respectful of their cultural needs and coherent with their distinct idea of progress.

In opposition to widespread technological determinism, in which society seems shaped by new technologies, the Global Futures Lab endorses a sort of “cultural determinism” in which any idea of the future should be built on localized visions, with an intention to open dialogue about pluralistic future perspectives.

Preserve The Memory

A project by Aida limón, Cynthia Santos, Gisell Holguín, Lima, Peru

“It is a way to keep the dead alive and to realize how we evolved generation after generation”

Juan y Samiq habían quedado en comer al día siguiente. Sus pulseras se encargaron de establecer una hora en la que los dos estuviesen disponibles.

Llegada la hora en que Juan se tenía que alistar para el encuentro, su ropero tenia listas las sugerencias de ropa adecuada según el clima del día y el tipo de evento. La pulsera de Samiq le aviso cuando Juan había llegado. Los amigos decidieron que cocinarían algo pues pronto seria la hora de almorzar. Samiq consultó con el dispositivo de la cocina qué recetas se podían preparar con los ingredientes disponibles en el edificio. El dispositivo guardaba en sí recetas contemporáneas como recetas grabadas por su abuela. Decidieron que cocinarían arroz Haylli, y en cuestión de minutos los ingredientes necesarios estuvieron listos en el buzón de la cocina. Los amigos fueron guiados paso a paso en la preparación de su platillo. Durante el proceso los dos reconocían que la experiencia de cocinar los hacía sentir vivos, el olor, los colores y texturas de los ingredientes los satisfacía. También disfrutaban el hecho de preparar una receta que sabían que sus antepasados comían muchos años atrás.

Al estar lista la comida, alistaron el espacio para comer en los platos modulares que mantienen la comida caliente y advierten al terminar de comer en qué color de buzón deben echarse los residuos. Juan y Samiq, se separan. Juan debe ir a una taller de intercambio de música experimental y Samiq tiene una reunión familiar.

Dispositivo que almacena historias a través de generaciones, para que estas sigan vivas por más que sus protagosnitas ya no estén vivos. Es una manera de mantener vivos a los muertos, de darnos cuenta cómo evolucionamos generación tras generación y de obtener datos de nuestros familiares a partir de su ADN.

Juan and Samiq had agreed to get together for lunch the next day. Their digital bracelets were in charge to establish a convenient time for both to meet.

When the time to get ready came, Juan’s wardrobe had suggestions ready for him about possible  suitable clothes according to the weather of the day and the type of event. Samiq’s bracelet notified Juan of Juan’s arrival. The two friends decided to start cooking something because lunchtime was approaching. Samiq consulted with the kitchen device what recipes could be prepared with the ingredients available in the building. The device’s archive contained modern recipes and  as well as the ones recorded by his grandmother. They decided they would cook “Haylli” rice, and in a matter of minutes the necessary ingredients were ready in the kitchen mailbox. The friends were guided step by step in the preparation of their dish. During the process they both recognized that the cooking experience made them feel alive, the smell, the colors and textures of the ingredients satisfied them. They also enjoyed preparing a recipe they knew their ancestors ate many years ago.

When the food was ready, they prepared the dining table using modular dishes that helped keeping the food warm. When the food was finished the dishes changed color indicating the recycling nature of the leftover.

Juan and Samiq split up. Juan must go to an experimental music workshop while Samiq has a family reunion.

The pattern edged on the surface of the object has been designed in collaboration with the indigenous Shipibo comunity in Cantagallo, Lima.  With an estimated population of over 20,000, the Shipibo-Conibo represent approximately 8% of the indigenous registered population. Originally from the the Amazonian forest, large amounts of the population have relocated to urban areas to gain access to better educational and health services, as well as to look for alternative sources of monetary income.

Device that stores stories through generations, so that they remain alive even if their protagonists are no longer with us. It is a way to keep alive the dead, to realize how we evolve generation after generation and to obtain data from our relatives from their DNA.

Listening to the Trees

A project by Hemra Teke, Farshad Saffari Ghandehari, Mohammad Ghasemi / Isfahan, Iran

“Dargoosh is a product for listening to the voices and memories of the trees. The trees have spirits and they are affected by their surroundings.”

Once upon a time, a day in many years later, in northern jungles of Iran, people live in tree houses.

Gholi is one of these habitants who lives in his hazelnut house.

A morning, when the roaster sings, he wakes up.

He washes his face with his blanket.

He walks through his green bathroom where he has his own organic garden.

He looks in the mirror and then he takes a look at the photos of his grandfather, he sees his eyes are blue
so he decides to use herbal tea that changes his eye color.

He looks at his plants and he finds out he runs out of blue herbal tea.

He turns back into his room and turns his bed upside down so as to transform it to a treadmill.

He has to run on it every day to generate the electricity of his house.

He takes some purple tomatoes to go to Jafar’s home, who always have blue herbal tea, and eat bread,
cheese and tomato for breakfast.

He looks around on the way Jafar’s home and thanks God for his great life.

He rings Jafar’s house doorbell and Jafar invites him to his house for having breakfast.

Jafar suggests to listen to some tree music while they are eating.

Music comes to the moment that reminds them about a good memory, so, Jafar and Gholi talk about it, while their eyes color is changing to blue.

Dargoosh, Reunion of man and nature and the music of the trees. In a future that, the trees are much important than before they are known as the most important species, “Dargoosh” is a product for listening to the voices and memories of the trees. The trees that have spirits and they will be affected by their surroundings. Dargoosh is made of two words, “Dar” that means Tree in Persian, and “Goosh” that means ear. Dargoosh is a product that has two separate parts, one is a belt that will be enclosed around the tree and the second part will be the player and instrumentalist of the voices of the tree that will be placed in a home, where has the warmth and friendliness of the family and friends. Dargoosh’s belt has a technology that works with sending and receiving electromagnetic waves into the tree and sends the data to the receiver inside the player part of the Dargoosh in the house. There is a controlling knob that helps the user to choose the kind of memories and the time of them and send them wirelessly to the player. Setting the belt up happens on the belt that is on the tree to keep the user and the tree in constant interaction. The main body of Dargoosh is like traditional Tar, a musical instrument from Iran. It is crafted by hand from berry tree. The process of making sound in Dargoosh is almost like the traditional Tar but instead of having strings on the inner stomach skin of sheep there is a comb and pin mechanism under the skin that in the final product Dargoosh player is not only a player it is almost an instrumentalist that receives the notes from the tree and plays them.

Karma Coin

A project by Harshali Paralikar, Annu Mathew, Jansher Aidan Bakhshi, Lorenz Roland, Ahmedabad, India

“The more good you do, the high will be the value of your coin.”

Praveen walked back from his office. It was a warm July evening and something in the air made him take a detour from his normal path. Walking down the lane away from the main road, he now entered a quite complex of houses lined with tall Ashoka trees on either side of the road. Parked at the gate of one of the houses, his eyes fall upon a rarity that he didn’t expect to see in his wildest dreams. A Royal Enfield h-65, one of only two in the world, a true beauty of the past, stood there with the keys in ignition, beckoning him closer. In that moment Praveen knew that it had to be his. He had spent the past year on a fantastic Karma score with not a single crime in his log but the thought that now hit his mind could potentially change that. The next few minutes were a blur and in no time was Praveen headed home, this time on a bike. Despite expecting it, the cool coin still managed to surprise him. It wasn’t the first time but it had been a while. He waited anxiously for it to stop. When it finally did, he felt like a weight had lifted off. His mind was clearer now. As the wind hit his face and he glided along the road, Praveen noticed the flowers, the decorations, the lights. It was Diwali night. Tonight was the night of good deeds, as always.

He raced towards the city circle to check the scoreboard, his heart filled with a new sense of foreboding. The digits were slowly starting to form now and Praveen watched as the new number glowed – 00000000001, and below it were 00978358417

One bad deed on an auspicious day, only his own.

Praveen owned a brass etched karma coin which was newly developed by the government. It has a LED display on the back of the coin which also has an intricate etched work representing the Ashoka chakra. The front of the coin is a basic adaptation of the existing rupee coin. The rupee symbol is replaced by the karma symbol and an endless knot representing the karma is in the centre. The graphical representation of the lotus from the rupee coin is also seen on the karma coin. The lotus is also a symbol of karma.

Each city also has a scoreboard showing the number of crimes or good deeds done by the people. For instance in our story, Praveen does one bad thing and the scoreboard changes to 00000000001.

The coin alerts its user through temperature also. It gets warm when you do a good deed and it gets cold if you do a crime or a bad deed. The value on the coin also changes with the deed. The more good you do, the high will be the value. This coin is used for your daily transactions and it only works when used by the owner himself. The coin could be purchased from any government banks and a person can only own one coin at a time. These coins are available in various choice of metals like silver, brass, gold, etc.


A project by Milkessa Abera, Solomon Kifle, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“He can feel the very distance between everyone. Everyone in its own little bubble. Everyone together and connected, but yet isolated.”

There was always a thought in Kia’s mind. Why every one do seem to forget about it. And their total oblivion about the control over their life. For them every day life is easier. The connection and information you have about everything is important and unbelievable. Even scarier sometimes It’s part of everyday use and its even part of who they are now.

He can see the confusion and disbelieve in their eyes even his. When they are without it. The matter in-fact, it consumes him with fear and confusion, with the sudden change with out it. Not being able to reach out, the total dependency on it and the disability to form attachment to a person and socialize as human being.

So, he goes back to the reality he and everyone have been familiar with for so long. The desire to see what he want to see in things and in people. For him it’s much easier to understand people around him with it.

The idea of being face to face with a person and talking to person and having intimate conversation have become an illusion to think or dream about. Everyone in his family are consumed with it. It’s one thing everyone have in common. Even if he lives with his family.

He can feel the very distance between everyone. Everyone in its own little bubble. Everyone together and connected, but yet isolated.


A project by Ysabel Adelaida Bayona Isidro, Lima, Peru

“Thomas always sees in the sky black buzzards with helmet and cape, he calls them “guardians.”

Samantha y su pequeño hijo Thomas juegan en el parque. Ellos disfrutan todas las tardes de verano en el parque. Thomas siempre ve en el cielo gallinazos negros con casco y capa, él los llama “guardianes”. Su mamá le dice: ellos son gallinazos y su trabajo es limpiar todos los días nuestra ciudad, ellos son nuestros amigos.

Thomas los quiere conocer, pero es muy difícil porque él siempre los ve volando en el cielo. Él sabe que puede conocerlos si él ensuciara la calle, entonces él decide hacerlo. Él ensucia la ciudad y minutos después tres gallinazos estaban cerca a él. Uno de ellos lo escanea y le dice: tú no deberías ensuciar la ciudad. ¿Por qué lo haces? Thomas le dice: yo quería conocerte y preguntarte sobre tu trabajo. El guardián le dice: mi trabajo es mantener limpia nuestra ciudad, y que las personas entiendan que esto es importante porque nosotros podríamos evitar enfermedades y salvar nuestro planeta Tierra.  Mi casco me ayuda a escanear a las personas cuando ellos ensucian la calle e identifica quienes son, y mi capa me ayuda a protegerme y tiene un Sistema de Identificación Global que ayuda a mis hermanos gallinazo a saber dónde estoy. Thomas entendió que es importante limpiar la ciudad.

Samantha and her little son Thomas play at the park. They have fun every afternoons of summer at the park. Thomas always sees in the sky black buzzards with helmet and cap, he calls them “guardians”. His mother says: they are buzzards and their job are clean everyday our city, they are our friends.

Thomas wants to met them, but it is very difficult because he always sees them fly in the sky. He knows that he could met them if he get the street dirty, so he decided to do it. He gets the street dirty and few minutes later three buzzards were near him. One of them scan him and says: you should not the city dirty. Why are you doing? Thomas says: I want to met you and ask about your job. The guardian say him: my work is to keep clean our city, and people understand that it is important because we would can avoid diseases and save our planet Earth. My helmet helps to scan people when their get the street dirty and I identify who are them and my cap helps to protect me and it has Global Identification System that helps my brothers buzzards know where I am. Thomas understood that it is important to clean the city.

A Love Story

A project by Rajdeep Savenkar, Dishant Pradhan, Tirtha Mandal, Himadri Patel, Banani Das / Ahmedabad, India

“…then someone told me about sterilization, I understood what was going to happen to me.”

Samir lost grip of his girlfriend’s hand as the policemen dragged him out of the police van and into the sterilization center. He fell into a dark void of pain when he felt the cold sharp edge of the scissor touched his bear skin.

Samir fell into a pool of flashbacks of his wedding when his husband leaned forward to kiss him and he froze with disgust. He could see both of his fathers smiling with happiness.

Snap! Samir opened his eyes and found himself lying down on a bed with a bright holographic clock on the side table next to the bed which showed 10:30 am 7th Feb 2052. He rubbed his eyes and the blurry image of a silhouette against the window flooded with sunlight cleared up into a couple starring at him. It was his sister Pooja and her wife Mansi. 

Paolo Cardini is designer, educator, and researcher. He is Associate Professor at Rhode Island School of Design where he is also holding the role of Graduate Program Director within the Industrial Design Department. Paolo’s work ranges from product to interaction design with a particular interest in discursive and speculative design. His current research mostly focuses on the relationship between artifacts, identities, and globalization. Paolo asks serious questions about how we live and answers them with whimsical and playful designs. He regularly lectures in conferences and design schools worldwide contributing actively to the field with projects, papers and publications.