Value Sensitive Speculative Design: Exploring More-Than-Human Relations in the Age of Climate Catastrophe

Michael W. Beach and Tyler Fox

pp.  111 - 131download






As issues of climate change become more apparent and intertwined with our daily lives, calls for action amplify. The causes and effects of anthropogenic climate change (rising temperatures and oceans, drought, wildfire, famine, refugees within the paradigm of late-stage capitalism) equate to a wicked problem. Yet, the problem is not humanity's alone. Living nonhuman organisms experience ecological shifts and disruptions also. Climate change requires a more-than-human perspective if we are to approach these problems ethically. HCI has become increasingly interested in the projects, visions, and narratives that investigate this complexity. However, research and pedagogy do not always emerge at the same rate; questions of how to teach this remain. In this article, we offer a description of and reflection on two of our courses from September-December 2020 and March-June 2021, offered at the University of Washington, Seattle, as examples of Value Sensitive Speculative Design (VSSD) in HCI pedagogy in the face of climate change. A collective group of 20 graduate and undergraduate students worked together over the course of two 10-week quarters in virtual sessions. Building on the Value Sensitive Design framework, we used speculative, discursive, and more-than-human concepts as an approach to expand the student’s ‘designer mindset’ and ability to notice complexity and richness in emerging and entangled relations. We discuss the struggles and troubles and conclude with future work &/or further design education. 


Keywords: Speculative design, discursive design, value sensitive design, more-than-human, climate change, HCI pedagogy.



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