Design and the Elastic Mind

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Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby, Dunne & Raby. Robot 1 from the Technological Dreams Series: no 1, Robots project (Model). 2007

High-density foam, 4 x 35 3/8" (10 x 90 cm) diam. Gift of the Speyer Family Foundation. © 2018 Dunne & Raby

Curator, Paola Antonelli: This piece is called Technological Dreams Series, and those are robots. The fact that they don’t “look” like robots is the whole point, explains London-based designer Fiona Raby:

Designer, Fiona Raby: We have four strange looking objects, which, they say they're called robots.

When we designed them, we wanted people to say, "Well, that's not a robot." We wanted them to think about, you know, what should a robot look like should it look in a certain way? "Um, why can't robots look like this?"

Each of these different objects tries to ask a different set of questions. So for example the red ring. The idea of that object is probably the most in control of all the robots. It's very contained in its own world. We think it's doing something incredibly smart.

The only thing it's worried about is electromagnetic fields that might come from the mobile telephone or from a TV set or something. And if there's an electromagnetic field coming, it will pick itself up and move itself along. And the only thing it gives a person (who) lives with it is the space that you could stand inside the ring free from any kind of electromagnetic pollution radiation.

Paola Antonelli: The other three objects here are also wildly different from our usual concept of robots; that’s because this kind of work is a departure from the standard role for designers, as Tony Dunne explains:

Designer, Anthony Dunne: Usually, designers would make technology more user-friendly, easier to use, more attractive. But as technology's becoming more complex, and the impact it might have on our lives becomes more dramatic, designers are starting to use imaginary design products to debate and discuss future possibilities for new technologies. This “design for debate” is a new role, really, for design.

This project was trying to zoom in on that more psychological or emotional relationship between us and advanced technology products in the home, and speculate and explore different qualities and different possibilities. To see what people were attracted to and what they were repelled by.