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Beyond acceleration: time, narratives, and the design of multiple worlds

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Our lives are composed of multiple rhythms, but many of us, living in Western industrialised societies, believe that the world is moving ever faster. Many of us also feel the range of negative impacts that this supposed condition of acceleration brings to everyday life, to long-term decisions, and to the natural world. Acceleration, however, as will be argued in this talk, does not correspond to how the world is, but how it is presented to some people, in some situations. As suggested in some areas of social sciences and the humanities, the notion of universalised acceleration is just one expression of dominant narratives that tend to treat time as objective, external to human activities and intrinsically connected to technological developments. This talk will discuss the main ways these narratives constrain design practice. Temporality is constructed through social practices, rituals and values. The hegemony of disembodied notions of time therefore conceals this social complexity and precludes designers’ exploration of more varied and nuanced temporal expressions. The discussion will be extended to other forms of taken-for-granted narratives, such as accounts of technological developments and what “the future” is to be. Designers, by creating metaphors that materialise critical issues, can help to challenge such paradigms and contribute to more diverse and inclusive interpretations of the world.

This talk is part of the Microsoft Research Cambridge, public talks series.

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