In 2009, the Italian edition of the magazine”WIRED” asked Density Design to bring together the scenarios developed as part of the game Superstruct into a map that could describe visually how the future might unfold.
Density design is a Research Lab in the Design Department of Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy). It focusses on investigating, developing, and implement innovative tools of information visualisation to represent complex phenomena in ways that make them understandable and usable. The Lab collaborates frequently with research institutes and organisations.
Superstruct was a “massively multiplayer forecasting game” ideated by Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future just over a year after they launched World Without Oil. Superstruct was played between September and November 2008 by about 8000 people all over the world.
The game started with a press release from the year 2019 announcing that, based on a computer simulation, the human race is at high risk of extinction by 2042 unless significant actions are taken to address five “super-threats” (Quarantin, Ravenous, Power Struggle, Outlaw Planet, Generation Exile). The document urged “citizens, families, corporations, institutions, and governments to talk to each other and begin making plans to deal with the super-threats”. (http://www.iftf.org/our-work/people-technology/games/superstruct/superstruct-play-the-game-invent-the-future/#sthash.tKz3mEok.dpuf)
Players were encouraged research, write personal stories, and join the community in creating “superstructures” i.e. ideas to tackle the challenges posed by the super-threats. According to the Superstruct Website (now inactive but acting as an archive of game contents) more than 1000 stories were collected in six weeks, and 545 Superstructures were created, moving the expected survival horizon to 2086. Everything was then condensed in a report edited by the IFTF.
In order to transform the report in a visual scenario, the team at DensityDesign started by working on designing a semantic map of themes and ideas. To do so, they created a logic structure out of the report, by identifying 7 macro-ideas and classifying them in 5 areas (politics, infrastructures, environment, economy and society). This logic structure was then later on visually arranged and overlaid to an allegorical illustration that helps developing a coherent narrative.
This is how the authors describe their stylistic choices:
We thought about the story we wanted to tell, and to do that we evoked a precise imagery: the idea came from the retro-futurism of ‘50s when everything seemed possible and the consequences of the smallest transformation were exaggerated on purpose to open people’s mind in wonder.
References and links
Mario Porpora, 2009. “We will be here – Map of the future”. Density Design Website. http://www.densitydesign.org/2009/10/we-will-be-here-map-of-the-future/
Description of the project and the design process on the Density Design Website: http://www.densitydesign.org/research/map-of-the-future/
The project on Behance: https://www.behance.net/gallery/The-map-of-the-future-(Wired-Italia)/319690
Institute For The Future: http://www.iftf.org/