Infrastructural Speculations: Tactics for Designing and Interrogating Lifeworlds

Richmond Y. Wong, Vera Khovanskaya, Sarah E. Fox, Nick Merrill, and Phoebe Sengers. 2020. Infrastructural Speculations: Tactics for Designing and Interrogating Lifeworlds. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–15. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376515


This paper introduces "infrastructural speculations," an orientation toward speculative design that considers the complex and long-lived relationships of technologies with broader systems, beyond moments of immediate invention and design. As modes of speculation are increasingly used to interrogate questions of broad societal concern, it is pertinent to develop an orientation that foregrounds the "lifeworld" of artifacts-the social, perceptual, and political environment in which they exist. While speculative designs often imply a lifeworld, infrastructural speculations place lifeworlds at the center of design concern, calling attention to the cultural, regulatory, environmental, and repair conditions that enable and surround particular future visions. By articulating connections and affinities between speculative design and infrastructure studies research, we contribute a set of design tactics for producing infrastructural speculations. These tactics help design researchers interrogate the complex and ongoing entanglements among technologies, institutions, practices, and systems of power when gauging the stakes of alternate lifeworlds.

Last updated:

July 29, 2020