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Experimental Design

Laura Dudek

Practice

Laura Dudek is a creative practitioner working at the intersection of design, sustainability, and social responsibility. She is interested in technology insofar as it is often enmeshed at the center of these conversations. She uses design fiction and world building as tools for creating critical interventions and discourse. 

Her recent works explore immersion and empathy in pursuit of understanding how design can be used to help us orient towards more desirable, sustainable futures. Central to notions of sustainability, she endeavors to explore these questions inclusive of diverse communities––within academia and industry, and beyond.

As a creative practitioner, Laura represents her inquiries through research, worlds, stories, and participatory experiences. 


Experience

B.A. in biology, with Honors, from Skidmore College, NY

5+ years experience as manager/strategist leading award-winning teams in the digital design industry 

Creative works have been exhibited internationally with critical acclaim


Engagements

Editor - RCA Design & Philosophy Society

RCA Show2021 - Workshop: Untangling Alternative Futures - 24 June 2021

RCA Show2021 - IED Physical Show: "BEEP BEEP" - 23 July 2021 to 25 July 2021 

Project

Innovation often promises to transform the world for better but, when met with real social needs, can have unintended consequences. What scenarios might arise from a future where democratized genetic engineering technology meets the environmental and social pressures of climate change?

Future Urban Foragers (FUF) is a design-led research project that uses design fiction as world building to probe this space. The aim of the work is to situate emerging biotech within a cultural landscape into which it may be deployed in order to encourage critical reflection around notions of plausible and desirable futures.

FUF is influenced by the inspiring work of Tony Fry, Victor Papanek, Dunne & Raby, and Krista Tippett. These notables, and others, have sparked an inquiry into the de-futuring activity of design, and human behavior more broadly. More importantly, they have helped pave a roadmap of hope and imagination towards truly sustainable approaches to living by design.


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— Future Urban Foragers is design-led research project that explores potential impacts of emerging biotech to encourage critical reflection on plausible and desirable futures.
— Innovation often promises to transform the world for the better but, when met with real social needs, can have unintended consequences. 

— What scenarios might arise from a future where democratized genetic engineering technology is met with the environmental and social pressures of climate change? 

— Future Urban Foragers offers a glimpse of late 21st century London where food insecurity drives urban foragers to mine their built environment for food––compromising infrastructure and material culture in the process.

Enter London 2086: a city stretching towards the future by erasing its past. 

Here, food insecurity drives wide-spread malnutrition and as prices of nutrient supplements become increasingly unaffordable, citizens are pushed to take wellbeing into their own hands. 

Biohackers turn to nature and find hope in lithotrophs, a class of organisms that derive energy and nutrients from rock and other minerals. Advancements in genetic engineering enable citizens to harness these organism to extract the nutrients they need from their surrounding urban environment. As the lithographs eat rock health rates improve, but the city of London slowly dissolves in the process. 

This design fiction is rooted in research, revealed through a series of artifacts, and ultimately realized by an immersive, interactive installation. Audiences are invited to explore the project proto-scientifically to better understand the forces and decisions that shaped the genesis of this future.

The world is anchored within the biolab of Claire Taylor, a civil servant and typical Londoner who finds herself in an impossible situation when she loses her job and is no longer able to afford essential nutrient supplements. 

Trapped between inflated health costs and the risk of malnutrition, Claire turns to biohacking and begins to destroy the city she once worked so hard to protect.  

The installation delivers an interactive, multi-sensory experience that presents Claire’s predicament though a series of objects. Audiences are invited in to explore proto-scientifically to better understand and empathize with Claire’s circumstance.

Medium:

Installation

Size:

2m x 2m x 2m
Mineral Supplement - Formula 09 — Featured is a solution of pre-formed, biologically harvested supplements. Colors indicate concentrations of minerals and vitamins forming. After harvest, unrefined mineral solution is combined with self-selecting filtrations agents for sorting and distribution in pill form.
Lichen, Substrate, Mineral Map — This 2053 Foraging Guide from the Royal Foraging Society depicts the eight most common lichen species in London, their preferred substrates, and mineral outputs--a handy reference for any urban forager.
Mineral Mining Strain AB7 — 'Talaromyces' is a genus of fungi in the family 'Trichocomaceae' commonly described by soft, cottony fruit bodies (ascocarps) with cell walls made of tightly interwoven hyphae. This AB7 sub-species is known for its vibrant hues of blue, red, and white; a form of genetic branding. Strain AB7 is one of several highly popular fungal sub-species cultivated for its mineral mining capabilities in wet-markets across London.
Harvesting Device — This cylindrical device is made from semi-transparent PLA with a thin adhesive on the bottom for securing to surfaces. It is used to house and transport GM lithos to mining sites and collects harvested minerals for processing.
NH Department of Health Letter — The cost of essential nutrients is increasing, as told by this letter from the National Health organization. As affordability decreases many are faced with a difficult decision, continue to pay the system or seek out alternate means for wellbeing.
Incubator — This homemade incubator monitors the humidity and temperature of various buffers, solutions and plates of Claire's biohacking experiments.
Contaminated Building Fragment — The four most common building materials used in London––bricks, concrete, asphalt, and Portland stone--are all susceptible to lithotroph consumption. Shown here is a unit of stone contaminated by a genetically modified strain.
Nutrient Deficiency Test Results — The NH rolled out a nation-wide wellness testing program to monitor widespread malnutrition rates in London. Results inform GP's and recipients of their current health status.

A diegetic artifact is a tool used to present an interior view of a fictional world. Its intention is to aid “the telling of worlds” by suggesting a context as opposed to a linear story into an experience (Sterling, 2005). Each artifact represents an entry point into the designed fiction that, when seen as a whole, builds a scenario which can be explored by individuals in their own way. The goal of a design fiction is to create scenarios that “suspend disbelief about change” and ultimately help inform how we live in the present.

For this project eleven diegetic artifacts were developed. Core world building artifacts are displayed.

Medium:

Various

Size:

Various

Design fiction has garnered considerable attention in recent years but, due to its infancy, incongruent perspectives on how to approach the practice remain. In an effort to contribute to the establishment of an evidence-based paradigm, I experimented with performative and embodied approaches to research through design. I was inspired by practitioners such as Marina Abramović who uses performance, duration, and sacrifice to “reach a point of transformation” where “performance becomes life itself and you really deal with the truth” (Abramović). I was interested in how this approach might open up hyperobjects, such as climate change, and empathy-based design practices, such as HCD. I wondered: 'how do we empathize with the future?' and developed the character Claire Taylor through whom I could navigate my design fiction. I embodied her as I developed the world, and vice versa, and gained a better sense of the forces, frictions, and values at play.

Presented here are snapshots of my development and embodiment of Claire.