• Critical fabulations are ways of storytelling that rework how things that we design come into being and what they do in the world. They deconstruct design methods to open different understandings of the past that reconfigure the present, creating new opportunities for a just future” (17). Here we can understand critical fabulations along the same continuum of practices that informs Siegert’s cultural technics and Tsing et al.’s “arts.”


0. Introduction

  • ”. . . this book explores what it would take to redesign design. It is a book that asks what worlds might be possible, what earthly presents and what subaltern futures, if we enlivened histories of practice elided by contemporary technology cultures” (1).
  • Rosner pioneers the “weaving core memory” work that I’ve seen at recent conferences (incl. my first SIGCIS). “By immersing ourselves in the story of the Little Old Ladies . . . our team began to make visible otherwise hidden knowledge in technology production. We imagined how design might live and be alongside these different inheritances, the invisible legacies of dexterous bodies and commodified labor . . .” (7).
  • “Meaning is not in the artifact or the eye of the beholder; rather people interpret the imagery through their practices of listening, watching, or engaging. Borrowing from this orientation, I focus on the potential of narrative interpretation, reading design through multiple analytic cuts rather than adopting a declarative stance” (9).
  • In order to situate design as an activist and investigative practice requires two interventions: 1) rewriting the histories of method; and 2) “enhancing” method with those “inheritances” (11).

1. Intellectual Foundations

  • This chapter tells the story of the rise of design thinking. “I use the discursive practices of a prevailing design tradition to chart the intellectual lineage of its four theoretical pillars: individualism, universalism, objectivism, and solutionism. This framework, I argue, powerfully set up an intellectual space for design, yet also limited the kinds of people who call themselves designers” (25).
  • Note the return to Wiener’s cybernetics in thinking about the rise of universalism (through informatization) in design (31–33).

2. Feminist Correctives in Design

  • Biographies of Suchman and Haraway in an effort to resituate feminist practice at the heart of design.

Chapters 4 and 5 are the major theoretical interventions.

  • Replaces the fourfold w/ alliances, recuperations, interferences, and extensions (81–82). Hermeneutics of reverse engineering are paramount for reinstantiating occluded histories (compare w/ work in Kari’s class and media archaeology more generally).
  • Fabulation is also a core process of revision: rather than seeking the new, we seek the wasted and repaired.

Archive and Impact

  • Rosner is an HCI designer; a colleague of Kraus’. “Critical fabulations” is a term from Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts.” The other major archive is feminist technoscience, e.g. Haraway.
  • In many ways, this is an opposite approach to design as Bratton.\
  • The reason why it’s important this book is here: 1) design is a powerful vector for thinking about media archaeology and infrastructure; 2) geo-engineering and technofixes are some of the most summoned rhetorical counterparts to the Anthropocene; 3) thinking with design is also a powerful (though dangerous) way to cross disciplinary boundaries; 4) “design” imperfectly indexes the values of practice vital to analysis of the political and material circulations within and through digital technologies.