The Tyranny of Assistive Technology

This entertaining film by Superflux explores the potential implications of decisions made now on our futures. Superflux uses speculative design to “explore the uncertainties of everyday life and emerging technology in a new light”(

Titled ‘Uninvited Guests’, this film shows a possible conflict between the good intentions behind assistive technologies and the emotional needs of the individual.

User Serviceable Parts Inside

serviceable label

All to often users are excluded from engaging with the repair and maintenance of their own products as they are advised not to do so by the manuals and labelling on products. I have even come across examples of manuals supplied with children’s bicycles that advise the owners not to undertake any maintenance or adjustments.

printer access

This proposal could apply to many different products that encase their inner workings within a concealing body. The design principle that supports this concept encourages the development of products that allow easy and safe access to the inner workings and allow users to conduct regular servicing and maintenance.

printer sketches
concept development sketches

In this case, users can carefully apply oil to the roller bearings and are able to replace the drive belt once it becomes stretched of worn. Printers are an interesting subject as domestic users frequently replace ink cartridges which requires a level of access to the interior of the product.



Speculative Design Concepts

As a punctuation in this research, a small number of Speculative Design Concepts have been generated that are intended to articulate key issues identified from the work done to date.

These concepts are intentionally presented as a set of archetypes in an etherial washed out grey to emphasise the conceptual nature of each proposition.

Each example will be explored further, including creative development process, in further posts.

Car DialysisXRayprinter accessdiagnostic scopesmodular


thinking concepts

A collection of ideas generated using the insight gained from the online survey and the material returned from the cultural probes field kits.

Concepts and ideas are centred around the following themes:

  • Tools
  • Design for Maintenance
  • Knowledge
  • Prompts

Each of these concepts warrants further investigation and, in some cases could form the basis of a research project in their own rite. Choosing a direction to follow up in the long term will be difficult and the criteria by which an area for further investigation is chosen need to be considered.

Having studied work by noted designers who practice speculative design, it is evident that the concepts they propose are complex and embody many layers of thinking and research. The concepts generated in the exercise above are initially shallow, whilst still being valid, and warrant further development to gain the depth seen in the work of others.

In the short term a small number of speculative design concepts will be developed to help communicate the results of this research to date.