Communication Survival Kit

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Research Paper on materialising the current communication as provocation. Written by Tomomi Maezawa, an MA Communication Design student at Central Saint Martins.

Text of Communication Survival Kit

  • Tomomi Maezawa

    Research Paper / Evaluative Report

    In an entirely digital future,

    how might we re-materialise communication?

    Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, MA Communication Design, 2013 /

  • AB

    2 Introduction 3 Background (Personal Motivation)4 Design Fiction (The Main Methodology) 6 Stationery

    Design (The Initial Experiment) 10 Research on Today And The Future 11 Ready-Made (Supporting Methodology)

    12 The Scenario 13 The Final Outcome 20 Conclusion21 Reference

    24 Subjectivity 25 Discovery Of New Approach26 Design Beyond The Frame


    ReseARch pApeR

    evAluATive RepoRT

  • AReseARch pApeR



    Communication is at the heart of the human history. No one can imagine

    a world without speech, or even without writing. The writing began its

    history 5000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean, and much later,

    new systems were invented to reproduce thousand or a million times what

    could previously only be spoken or remembered.

    Since those inventions including printing, postal service, radio, telephone,

    and television, has significantly shaped our culture, we have seen the

    world selected to be seen (William, 1981).

    A football match on television, for example, would never be the same as

    it is played. There would be the decision of what we should see and what

    the most exciting is. It is selected so that it can be reported. However, we

    can easily forget this because we care the game, not the process.

    Today it has led by the Internet and mobile devices, which is at the centre

    of any debate about communication among young people. Although we

    all know that texting is means of symbolisation, it is treated as a reality

    equally to face-to-face experience.

    Especially, young people, who were born with this developed reality, can

    hardly distinguish the limitation from those means. Moreover, they are

    stressed out with an obscure meaning created by the limitation (Turkle,

    2011). With a text saying sorry, you would be irresolute whether he

    was actually apologising, or just flattering. You would not misjudge if it

    were in person. This increasing mistrust or misunderstanding has been

    twisting a relationship among the young.

    The research was commenced to tackle this invisible urgent situation,

    which needs to be realised by the young. There have been the measures

    to deal with the situation, such as, educating the digital literacy (Dug-

    gan, 2013), offering stress management, or even many communication

    designs to smooth the troubles.

    They would be the great first aids, however, the problem is passivity of the

    young who are always given the answer. They are admonished to solve the

    situation without their motivation. The first thing to do is to make them

    actively discuss the situation, not only for today, but for the future they

    will create.

    I as a communication designer strongly believe that design has played a

    significant role to provide a different point of view in everyday life. There-




    fore I started this design journey to investigate how to make the situation

    more noticeable and discussable for our children and grandchildren.

    In this research paper, I will reflect my background, which directed me

    to where possible to question before moving onto the initial experiment

    applying the main methodology. After evaluating the experiment, the

    paper will go through the further research and supporting methodology

    to generate more provocative outcome, which will be discussed at the end

    of the paper.

    The experience of the communication crisis warned me of our depend-

    ence on the digital world, which could cause not only an everyday prob-

    lem, but also a matter of life and death.

    In 2011, there was Tohoku earthquake where many people experienced

    communication confusion by the suspended networks. Because the phone

    switchboard was jammed at once, the digital communication turned out

    the only medium we could contact each other. It made possible warning a

    danger or sending a SOS to where the mass media could not approach.

    Nevertheless, we became confused if we were exchanging vital informa-

    tion, or rumours. With great concerns about the safety, any information

    looking urgent was sent out without consideration of its validity. The crisis

    revealed the dependence on the technology weakening our ability to judge

    the right information outside of the digital world (Kinoshita, 2011).

    BAckgRound (peRsonAl MoTivATion)



    We have come too far to remember the world without technology, however,

    facing a crisis like this case, we would finally realise how distorted our

    communication was.

    I strongly felt that we were still in progress of handling the digital com-

    munication. In addition to the preparation for the crisis, the development

    of technology needs reflection on its impact on human interaction. Com-

    munication technology should not promote speed or ease of its applica-

    tion. It should have a room to remind of why, what, with whom, and how

    we are communicating.

    This experience gave me a calling to change the situation by communica-

    tion design. I therefore decided to explore a way to stimulate discussion

    on the balance between communication and technology as a final MA


    In order to raise arguments, the situation needs to be visible. Instead of

    being clear propaganda, the project aims to be a trigger for people cen-

    tred in the digital communication. That is why Design Fiction was chosen

    to be the main methodology.

    Advocated by many futurists such as an American Sci-fi writer Bruce

    Sterling, Design Fiction is an approach to design that speculates about

    new ideas through prototyping and storytelling. There are some notable

    examples in various fields introduced below.

    In product design, Dunne & Raby is one of the great practitioners of this

    methodology. They use a term Critical Design instead of Design Fiction

    to define their focus on the reflection of new technology and science.

    For example, in one of their work TECHNOLOGICAL DREAMS SERIES:

    NO.1, ROBOTS (Dunne and Raby, 2007), they designed robots which

    could not follow your orders. Because robots had been developed with a

    brain like a human, they speculated that robots might start to be worried,

    to be indecisive, or even to dream in the future.

    design FicTion(The MAin MeThodology)



    Meanwhile, in graphic design, Tibor Kalman, in his magazine Colors,

    provoked the preconception of race in a similar way with Design Fiction

    (Toscani and Kalman, 1993).

    He imagined the future without race from his attention to increasing peo-

    ple with mixed origin. On the other hand, he knew that race influenced

    our identity and our belief in someone. He consequently represented the

    incompatibility by mixing skin colours of the famous people (Kalman and

    Hall et al., 2000).




    Inspired by their success in raising many arguments, my project refers to

    Design Fiction in the way to stimulate contemporary communication by

    speculating about the future situation.

    My first experiment with Design Fiction, which was stationery design for

    the future event annulling digital communication, led to the further re-

    search and more concrete outcomes. Before evaluating the result of the

    experiment, I will discuss my findings in the observation, and the first

    scenario for the stationery design.

    The digital communication is getting over the analogues position. It is

    hard to stay with the analogue in order to catch up with everyday life.

    Especially, mobile devices are compatible with the Internet social net-

    working to reduce our belongings.

    sTATioneRy design(The iniTiAl expeRiMenT)


    What if...? (Toscani and Kalman, 1993)



    The devices allow your individual connection with both people and source

    which physically impossible. In spite of the admirable fact, those advan-

    tages seem to accelerate our dependence on the digital life.

    For example, as soon as you find somewhere to go or you get lost your

    way, you would not hesitate to access to the Internet mapping services,

    such as Google map. A physical map would be used only where the Inter-

    net is not available. That would be the moment to remember your reliance

    on those services, at last.

    It was assumed after the observation that remembrance of the analogue

    communication could make people step back from the digital, and a sce-

    nario was roughly set up in the future where the digital is unavailable and

    the analogue communication takes its place temporary.

    To introduce this future, the idea of stationery being a survival kit was

    emerged. A survival kit is a term for a package of basic tools and