Cohabitating with living materials: The application of design fiction to speculate on biological futures

Alan, Ali Cankat
Designers are increasingly interested in understanding the relationship between materials and design. They are exploring innovative ways of producing objects and material experiences, especially with the influence of ongoing research and applications in sustainability. Further, developments in biotechnology are creating a new paradigm for materials and design within the term ‘biodesign’. Biodesign covers various approaches, from producing biofabricated materials to disclosing novel cohabitation possibilities with organisms. By focusing on the second, this thesis investigates the future of living materials to uncover cohabitation possibilities. Initially, a sensitisation process in the form of a field trip is carried out to complement theoretical knowledge with practical knowledge on working with living materials. Then, based on the literature and sensitisation process, a new qualitative workshop-based method, under research through design fiction approach, is developed and utilized to speculate on possible futures with living materials. The method involved nine participants in three teams carrying out a generative session. Based on the session, it is found that: a) the human side of people’s relationship with living materials is vital for achieving a sustainable mutualism; b) the temporality of living materials is an essential aspect of livingness that brings novel communication possibilities; c) living materials must be respected as beings, independent of their attributed value within human artefacts; d) the creation and nurture of living materials within the context of sustainability calls for alternatives to current theories. The research also confirmed that design fiction is a helpful tool for investigating biofutures, although refined ideation tools and more reachable methods, which can be based on those used in this study, are needed.


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Citation Formats
A. C. Alan, “Cohabitating with living materials: The application of design fiction to speculate on biological futures,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2023.