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Exploring Biosensing Privacy Futures with Design Fiction and Science Fiction

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Exeter


Emerging biosensing technologies present new questions about privacy and surveillance, although anticipating the specific contours of emerging privacy issues is difficult to do in advance, given the diversity in sites where biosensing is occurring and can potentially occur, and given new emergent meanings and interpretations of biosensed data. I discuss the use of design fiction – conceptual designs and objects existing within a narrative or story world – as a way to interrogate multiple biosensing futures. Specifically, I report on a research process that generated a set of design fiction concepts related to biosensing technologies, inspired by the 2013 science fiction novel “The Circle,” articulating a range of social, technical, and legal configurations of the future. By creating design proposals that explore connections between the novel’s fictional world and present and future realities and imaginaries, these designs open a liminal space between ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ for further exploration. I reflect on how this process allowed us to critically engage issues of surveillance and privacy, and how this mode of engagement allowed us to explore entanglements between ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ worlds, connecting sensing technology in popular culture, research, and commercial products historically, in the present, and in imagined futures. I also discuss how these design fictions can take on new meanings when shared with non-designers. New concerns, connections, and contestations emerge as informants imagine alternate (or challenge existing) configurations and assemblages of biosensing technologies.


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