Crafting an Experiential Future

Artifacts from the future, created by Hillary Carey

For Stuart Candy’s course, Experiential Futures, I created a “taste of the future” for a classmate, based on her initial vision of a preferable future, in 20 years. In this Ethnographic Experiential Future, I imagine a world in which mushrooms our society elevates their value. We now appreciate fungi as equal citizens. They are protected, valued for the medicinal properties, and loved as pets as we grow them in our homes.

From Stuart Candy’s instructions for the assignment:

Basic steps involved:

  1. Next, imagine how we might extend their concept — either to bring more depth to their current artifact or to add another aspect they have not yet considered.
  2. Create a tangible experience of that future for our recipient. Ideally, we’ll surprise them in their natural habitat.

Making it real

I created three elements to form a multi-layered experience for Ema, who I knew would be in Transition Design class on Monday morning.

Mocked-up version of Time Magazine, one mushroom pet, and “mushroom love” stickers
  1. A Time Magazine cover recognizing Maitake mushrooms as “Citizen of the Year.”
  2. Activism stickers saying things like “Mushrooms save lives” and “We want fungus among us”
  3. Six mushrooms-as-pets for classmates to bring to Transition Design class where Ema is the TA

On Monday morning, I met up with five classmates to hand them a mushroom basket and a sticker. I found other classmates to give stickers, too, as well. I prepped classmates to explain that they were growing mushrooms to donate to UPMC to cure cancer in case anyone asked. And they did ask! So, in front of Ema, classmates trickled into the classroom wearing stickers and carrying mushrooms in baskets, and Ema didn’t know why. When I walked in, I handed her the Time magazine, and she was able to read about the program.

Classmates Nandini, Erica, and Alex participated in the experience

The article for the TIME cover story said this:

“Thanks in large part to the activist efforts of Ema Karavdic, designer of the campaign to give citizen-rights to mushrooms, the United States has protected these critical organisms. These protections have led to many new insights into how mushrooms help heal our bodies and the planet.”

There was also an advertisement from a local hospital, UPMC, that described the mushroom-growing project:

YOU can help US cure cancer.
UPMC is proud to announce our mushroom donation program.
Care for mushrooms in your own home and then bring the surplus to our cancer research center. With your help, we can turn fungi into life-saving nutrition.

Sharing what we made

Some qualities we identified of creating successful future experiences:

  • Reveal the future over time, build anticipation, allow them to piece the clues together.
  • Create objects that have real weight and presence to make the future feel more tangible.
  • Create explanations for why the materials are current day, rather than futuristic. Such as, “They said you’d think this paper letter was cool.”
  • Emotional connection. Evocative images and poetry made Alex’s artifact emotionally moving. Connecting to a future child or an anniversary makes it feel personal. One classmate said, “I hadn’t pictured myself in that future until this.”
  • Multi-sensory.
  • Involving others extends the experience. Others are curious and ask about it. Small artifacts can be worn throughout the day to pique interest.

Design → AntiRacism → Design | pursuing a PhD in #TransitionDesign @CarnegieMellonDesign