Vienna STS Talk

17.01.2019 17:00

Prototyping Society

Sascha DICKEL (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz)

Contemporary societies often use words and images to construct present futures: visions of tomorrow that are projected and performed today. However, sometimes they also use material things to get access to the future. Fields like design, engineering, and architecture make use of prototypes to materialize present futures. Prototypes fulfill three major roles: As material devices, they specify present futures. As epistemic objects, they are used to test and evaluate futures in the present. As demonstrative evidence, they suggest that an imagined future is plausible, probable, and/or desirable.

Prototyping is no longer confined to R&D departments, universities, and design studios. Civic hackathons, makerspaces, prototyping parties, and crowdfunding campaigns turn prototyping into an activity in which people might participate as producers, evaluators, and audience of prototypes.

In this talk I will focus on my ethnographic study of an urban design thinking workshop to discuss a case of “prototyping in the wild” (Lauff 2018). The workshop invited a group of people with different backgrounds to prototype futures for urban life. I will show how the workshop used a set of social technologies (teamwork, feedback, contest) to make prototyping ‘participatory’. As prototyping is reconfigured as a participatory exercise, urban futures are materialized and turned into epistemic and demonstrative objects. Under the technological gaze of prototyping, the present becomes a testbed for the future. 


Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung


Seminarraum STS, NIG, 1010 Wien, Universitätsstraße 7/II/6. Stock