Matthew Wizinsky

Matthew Wizinsky is a designer, educator, and researcher. He is a full-time professor in the School of Design at the University of Cincinnati and runs the independent practice Studio Junglecat.

His projects live at various intersections of participatory design, interaction design, exhibition design, and speculative design. Wizinsky’s research collaborations typically apply community-engaged participatory and speculative methods toward domains that comprise contemporary conceptions of “the public” and/or “the city.” Experimentation with digital media plays a central role in his approach to research.

Current engagements include participatory design with HIV survivors to create a public history of HIV in America and working with Chicago adolescents to transform public historical research into speculative visions for improved futures amidst threats of a changing climate.

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Workshop: Speculative City: Scenario Building for Urban Futures

This workshop will introduce participants to some of the key methods for crafting speculative urban futures proposals as employed by undergraduate design students at the University of Cincinnati.

Speculative City is an undergraduate seminar-studio hybrid taught since 2015. Students from Communication, Industrial, and Fashion Design follow a speculative design curriculum of “disciplined imagining” to produce critical proposals for the future of urban life as evidenced by designed objects, interfaces, artifacts, communications, or environments.

Workshop participants will collaborate on generating future scenarios that bind unfolding social, cultural, and political trajectories with new and emerging technologies.
In an exercise called “Mapping the Dark Matter,” a focused analysis of objects from contemporary material culture opens up a wide array of complex and intersecting social and technical systems. From this web, the interdependencies between objects, systems, and social experiences can be challenged to pose new questions of opportunity and risk. In an exercise called “Stretching the Cone of Possibilities,” these questions are accelerated and multiplied by merging them with new and emerging technologies. At the intersection, a wide range of new possibilities emerge. Admitting the tradeoffs between Utopia and Dystopia becomes the ethical/political challenge for designers to craft a plausible (and possibly preferable) “Middletopia”—a scenario still wrought with ethical questions, framed as an opportunity for future investigation through the design of objects, interfaces, communications, or environments.

By the end of the workshop, participants will have produced an urban futures scenario as the seed for a new speculative project. This is 2-3 hour workshop is a fast-paced equivalent of a half semester of rigorous research in the class Speculative City.

The value for PRIMER participants are:
1) Anyone new to Speculative Design practices can use this workshop as a model for methods to conduct early stages of investigation to frame a speculative investigation or provocation.
2) Educators can learn the methods used in Speculative City. Most speculative curricula are in graduate programs; this one is tailored for undergraduate students. Additionally, the curriculum is designed for participation by students/designers from focus areas, including Communication/Graphic, Industrial, and Fashion design.
3) The exercises will be conducted in small groups. Discussion and debate are critical elements and extend the workshop itself into new networks of discourse among participants.
4) Within just a few hours, participants will create new scenarios for urban futures that can fuel future investigations, projects, research, collaborations, etc.