logo

Neostalgic Computing

Through a speculative design process, we'll reflect on our relationships with computing technologies and reimagine them from a hyper-personal, retrospective, and healing lens.

Starts Feb 7, 2021

Facilitated by jackieSorry! This cohort is full.
CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

NOTE: Scholarship rates are available for students and others in need of financial support to be able to enroll. If you're interested in a scholarship, please email me with a brief note on why you'd like to join.

What's this about?

Many of us are nostalgic about the technology of our pasts, but what happens when we move from nostalgia—longing for what was—to neostalgia*—longing for what could have been?

In this class, we'll work through a speculative design process to reimagine computing technology for ourselves through a retrospective, hyper-personal, and healing approach.

Through in-class discussions, activities, and homework assignments, we'll reflect on our past relationships with technology and work towards completing final personal projects in any medium of your choice. Each week, we'll walk through through one step of a speculative design process—to brainstorm, prototype, and share our personally-reimagined computing artifacts.

While the class is not explicitly focused on UI design, we will use Figma to virtually collaborate and brainstorm together.

Goals:

  • Foster space for self-reflection and retrospection
  • Provide a welcoming introduction to speculative thinking
  • Plant seeds for how to envision technological futures aligned with our values

Who's this for?

  • Especially suited for students, makers, technologists, and/or artists who want to get a new lens into their relationships with technology and their own work.

  • We'll focus on ideas and discussion rather than learning new tools—while it does help to be comfortable with expressing your ideas in some creative medium, no specific background in coding or design is necessary!

What should you expect?

  • 90 minutes/week, for 6 weeks
  • We'll have homework! A blend of lighter exercises and more in-depth project work.

What will we end up with?

  • Each student will leave the class with their own speculative computing artifact, imagined in whatever medium they choose.

  • As a group, we will document our work in a collective gallery/e-zine to share our projects and stories.


Syllabus / Schedule

Week 1: Nostalgia

What are some of our early memories of technology? What do we miss from it? What are we nostalgic about in technology, and why?

Agenda:

  • Introductions: Who's here! What are you interested in?
  • About this course: What's the point of this class? What is speculative design?
  • Visualization exercise: Let's visualize and freewrite about a piece of technology in our pasts.
  • Group discussion: Let's discuss as a group. What did we think about? What might it say about what we're nostalgic for, and why?

Homework

Starting from the piece of technology you imagined (or pivoting to something else), do some research. What can you learn about its history, and the social values that are embedded into its design, implementation, or use?

Capture this in any form that’s useful to you - bullets, notes, writing, whatever. We’ll share our findings in the next class.

Week 2: Unpacking the past

What values did we see in our past experiences of technology? How do those align with larger social/cultural values, and what alternate values could we try to imagine instead?

Agenda:

  • Group values mapping exercises Let's share our research findings from the homework and in Figma, create a collaborative board of values.
  • Introspection exercise: Individually, we'll dig into our past experiences and the values we saw while growing up—social and technological, positive and negative—and make connections.
  • Group discussion: What patterns came up for us? Did we think of anything in a new way?

Homework

Reflect on the social/technical values that were most harmful and/or negative to you . What could the alternate values be, if you flipped them to be healing and/or positive?

Create a list of these alternate values (at least a few) to act as your list of “Design Principles”.

Week 3: Imagining pasts that could have been

How can we create versions of technology for ourselves under alternate values? How can we explore different possibilities of these, across various artifacts?

Agenda:

  • Group sharing: Share our "Design Principles" with the group!
  • Group brainstorm exercise: We'll break off into small groups. Taking turns on each student's "Design Principles", we'll brainstorm possible reimagined computing experiences for each other, with the help of some prompts.
  • Group sharing: How did that go? What ideas feel most exciting to everyone?

Homework

Let the ideas simmer for a bit, and continue brainstorming if needed! Pick one Thing that feels the most poignant and free-write/sketch, thinking about:

  • Why is it the most poignant?
  • How is it different from the Thing experienced in your past? In your current reality?
  • What kind of world could have produced it? How could it have been made?
  • How would past-you interact with it? What could the present look like now, if you had it?

To help answer these, consider doing some further research into the original Thing and its history.

Week 4: Prototyping

What tools can we use to flesh out this artifact - the look, feel, story? What do prototypes do, what do they tell us, and how can we prototype to serve our goals?

Agenda:

  • Discussion: What do we know about prototyping? What's special about prototyping for speculative contexts? What tools?
  • Individual exercise: Given your chosen artifact, what what does the 1-minute prototype look like? 1-week? 1-month? 1-year? What does this say about the core story?
  • Group sharing: Share your prototyping plan for the final project—we will have 2 weeks. What skills are you bringing in, and what do you have to pick up? What are you nervous about? How can we problem-solve or find new angles?

Homework

Start prototyping! Focus on getting the core idea down. Plan to have something started, to share next week as a work-in-process.

Week 5: Storytelling

How can you tell a story - about your artifact, and about yourself? What are formats for telling a story around your artifact?

Agenda

  • Group share: Let's share our WIPs and give feedback! What are you stuck on? How can we help?
  • Discussion: Why is storytelling important? How do other speculative design projects tell stories? How will we our stories as a class?
  • Open work session/office hours: Open time to ask questions and work together!

Homework

Continue prototyping based on the feedback! When you're finished, update the shared Figma file with any images and writing you'd like to include in your section of the web gallery so Jackie can turn it into a website.

Week 6: Collective Neostalgia

To what extent can personal healing be a means for collective healing? What does reimagining pasts mean for reimagining futures?

Agenda

  • Let’s have a party: Let's see everyone's final artifacts! And eat snacks together.
  • Retrospective discussion: What went well about this class? What do you think you'll take away? Does it make you think about any parts of your life, or your work, differently? What does it mean to share our projects with the world?

Related Work & Precedents

$140
6 weeksUp to 12 learners
Prerequisites

No specific coding or design experience is necessary! This class leads up to individual, free-form projects—so it's great to have some comfort (or excitement!) to bring your creative ideas to life, in any medium.


Want emails on new cohorts?

Watch this course!