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health surveilance Lisa Cartwright

Design Fictions: Health Surveillance Infodemic – Design Fiction by Numbers

Future Epidemiologies, Ethical Responses, Public Health
A Studio Sessions Series

Speaker: Lisa Cartwright

Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Time: 1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.

Space is limited!

The past few months have seen a surge in graphic design characterizing the coronavirus pandemic in terms of data, numbers, charts, and graphs. Information design scholar Joan Donovan has characterized this trend as an “Infodemic” in its own right. 

This session will focus on the affordances and concerns we may have around applying the concept of design fiction to work with data in the design of pandemic information. We will consider the relationship between quantitative knowledge and narrative, and between speculative knowledge systems and fiction. We will analyze examples of pandemic data design, highlighting the sometimes hidden role of fiction and narrative as driving forces in pandemic information design. We will consider concepts including surveillance and speculative prediction. Ultimately we will focus on fiction and narrative at the interface of quantitative-qualitative pandemic systems design work. The first half of the workshop will be devoted to case studies and keywords, the second portion to data design.


Lisa Cartwright is known for her writing about visual culture and the body in feminist science and technology studies and working at the intersections of art and medical history and critical theory. She is currently Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD with additional appointments in the Department of Communication and the graduate Science Studies Program and an affiliation with the program in Critical Gender Studies. 


Design Fictions are a critical design tool for thinking otherwise about the past, present and future. Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling says that design fictions “suspend disbelief about change.” Constructing fictional narratives in various media (from films to texts, from data graphics to powerpoints, from prototypes to maps) helps designers think through complex phenomena and explore how various systems might interact. Design fictions shape design paths by investigating and inspiring possible worlds. 

This series of studio sessions will use design fiction methods to consider ethical responses for epidemiological futures. It invites participation from those who want to learn about design fictions and/ or those interested in exploring outcomes of the current pandemic.

This workshop series is open all, with first priority given to Design Lab members and students in the Speculative Design and Visual Arts program. No previous experience with Design Fictions or epidemiology studies is required. 

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