Counterfiction: Designing within Alternative Worlds

Austin Houldsworth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


New products and our interactions with them are almost always informed and shaped by previous models. The design and development process is iterative in nature, and consequently relatively conservative. Designing radically different technological products is therefore difficult due to the pervasive nature of market-orientated culture, which permeates most aspects of contemporary society and heavily informs normative design practice. This chapter questions assumptions of contemporary design, of specific products, that provide countervisions through counterfictions. Designing within alternative worlds raises questions that are addressed by designers and art historians in pursuit of new methods.

In recent years speculative and critical designers have developed methods which enable a reduced influence of consumer market culture on design practice. This paper will begin by focusing on one such method, which is counterfactual histories. The approach borrows from the historiographical method of altering a recorded timeline by proposing What if? questions at key moments in history. In design this effectively creates an alternative set of constraints to those currently informing commercial practice within a specific period or context, and in turn altering material culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMemories of the Future
Subtitle of host publicationOn Countervision
EditorsStephen Wilson, Deborah Jaffé
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781787075757, 9781787075740, 9781787075764
ISBN (Print)9783034319355, 3034319355
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2017

Publication series

NameCultural Memories
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
ISSN (Print)2235-2325


Dive into the research topics of 'Counterfiction: Designing within Alternative Worlds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this