Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Anthony Dunne

Parallel worlds, the imagination, and unreality

By Steve Kroeter March 24, 2014
Anthony Dunne, Interaction and Product/Industrial Designer: Dunne & Raby and Royal College of Art (London)
View Anthony Dunne’s Book List

“I didn’t have any specific criteria in mind when selecting these books, but I see they all celebrate parallel worlds, the imagination, and unreality in some way,” writes Anthony Dunne about the choices on his book list.

Head of the Design Interactions (formerly Computer Related Design) program at London’s Royal College of Art, Dunne is also a partner, with Fiona Raby, in the design studio Dunne & Raby, which, says Dunne, “uses design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate among designers, industry, and the public about the social, cultural, and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.” Their work is as much—if not more—about generating ideas and imagining new paths of thought as it is about creating products. This approach is explored in Dunne and Raby’s new book, Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming (The MIT Press), published this past December.

Among the titles on Dunne’s book list that delve into “parallel worlds, imagination, and unreality” is Between Zero and Infinity by architect Daniel Libeskind (also a Designers & Books contributor), about which Dunne comments: “I was given this book when I was in my first year at the Royal College of Art for a project we were doing about drawing the invisible. It opened my mind to the possibility of designing things that didn’t have to be real, didn’t even have to be built, but could happily exist as a drawing or an idea.”

There is also Stephen Duncombe’s vision for progressive politics, Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, which, says Dunne, is “an inspiring take on the need to combine political critique and imagination . . . and a rallying cry to embrace the impossible.” Another is industrial designer Andrea Branzi’s 1984 history of Italian New Wave design, The Hot House, which “hints at some of the things design could have been, and maybe still can be.”

Digiland, part of Dunne & Raby’s project United Micro Kingdoms (2012–13), featured in Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, 2013 (The MIT Press). Photo: courtesy of Dunne & Raby

Dunne also includes Solution 239–246: Finland–The Welfare Game, part of the Berlin-based Sternberg Press’s Solution Series, which he calls “a collection of books where writers reimagine existing countries to entertain, provoke, and tickle the imagination.” Dunne and Raby, in fact, were recently commissioned by the Design Museum in London to create a project, United Micro Kingdoms, that could well fit into this series. According to the partners’ website, the project “presents perspectives on a fictional future for the United Kingdom. It sees England devolved into four self-contained counties, each free to experiment with governance, economy and lifestyle. These ‘live laboratories’ interrogate the cultural and ethical impact of existing and new technologies and how they alter the way we live.” One of the counties is Digiland. “Digitarians depend on digital technology and all its implicit totalitarianism: tagging, metrics, total surveillance, tracking, data logging, and 100% transparency. Their society is organized entirely by market forces; citizen and consumer are the same.” The project is featured in Speculative Everything.

In the coming weeks we’ll be publishing the book list that Dunne’s partner, Fiona Raby, sent along.

View Anthony Dunne’s Book List.

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