Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

The Dehumanization of Entrepreneurship Part 01: Context

 “Mainly they were worried about the future, and they would badger us about what’s going to happen to us. Finally, I said: ‘Look, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. This is the century in which you can be proactive about the future; you don’t have to be reactive. The whole idea of having scientists and technology is that those things you can envision and describe can actually be built.’ It was a surprise to them and it worried them.” – Alan Kay

In the 18th Century, just 3 decades prior to the birth of Leland Stanford, Adam Smith defined “entrepreneur” as a person who acts as an agent in transforming demand into supply. This specific definition, the concept of an entrepreneur as a supplier of what the customer wants, is in agreement to many definitions that preceded Smith. However, this was not a philosophy that remained a static definition of the practice. In his book, The Design of Business, Roger Martin speaks of entrepreneurship and innovation as a way of seeing the world “not as it is, but as it could be.” The book goes on to argue that true innovation stems from the exploration of problems that can not actually be found in history, or proven by data. Perhaps in a more extreme use of language, Erik Reis offers up another take on the practice defining entrepreneurship as the act of creating something new under “extreme uncertainty.” From juxtaposing the 21st Century definition of the field with the 18th and and early 19th century definitions, it might seem as though entrepreneurship has evolved from a practice that supplies a demand to a profession that creates demands – from a field of regurgitation to a practice of innovation. However, I argue, these theories are not honest representations of the true landscape of contemporary American innovation.

Numbers are a hindrance on history-making. Prescribed methodologies, or the templatization of innovation, yields expected results. Changing history through the production of cultural shifts, an ambition at the heart of entrepreneurship, is an act that is far too radical for a quantitative practice. Entrepreneurs often turn towards numbers to see how coordination or reallocation can be optimized to provide a great benefit to either corporate or social entities. A quantitative and theoretical stance like this is actually crippling to the radical thinking an entrepreneur is capable of, limiting their ability to innovate that which does not exist and change the way we, as consumers and human beings, perceive the world around us on both a macro and micro scale. Peter Lunenfeld, a pioneer in the digital humanities, states that we need to “move from P&L to V&F—profit and loss to vision and futurity—from ROI to ROV –the Return on Investment to a Return on Vision.” A shift in entrepreneurial intention from one that is quantitative to one that is qualitative enables innovators to lessen their concern around the production of profit, and instead focus efforts toward designing a future they would like to inhabit. I argue that these kind of values and aspirations were common amongst 20th century innovations, but has been lost in post-internet entrepreneurial endeavor, a practice that has suffered from a disability that has crippled the ability to discover new problems to design solutions for.

 “The husband and wife who open another delicatessen store or another Mexican restaurant in the American suburb surely take a risk. But are they entrepreneurs? All they do is what has been done many times before. They gamble on the increasing popularity of eating out in their area, but create neither a new satisfaction nor new consumer demand… […] Indeed, entrepreneurs are a minority among new businesses. They create something new, something different; they change or transmute values.” – Peter Drucker

Instead of changing or transmuting values, entrepreneurs are focusing energy towards making the old better, feeding off of that which preceded as opposed to laying ground work for that to come. This methodology results in a loss of disruptive tendency within the practice of entrepreneurship.

Works Cited:

  1. Kay, Alan. “Predicting The Future.” Ecotopia, 20 May 2011. <http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/futures.htm>.
  2. Eric Ries, The Lean Startup (New York: Crown Business, 2011), Cover Jacket
  3. Lunenfeld, Peter. “Bespoke Futures: Media Design and the Future of the Future,” Think Tank: Adobe Design Center, 2007. 20 May. 2011 <http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/thinktank/lunenfeld.html>
  4. Peter Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (New York: Harper, 1985), 21-22

Definitions

Entrepreneurship: the act of fulfilling current needs and solving global problems through the creation of business and markets.

Business: the tangible outcome of entrepreneurship.

Fictional Entrepreneurship: the act of fulfilling needs that have yet to exist.

Diegetic Business: the tangible outcome of fictional entrepreneurship.

Diegetic Business

Fiction is not enough, but it is necessary.

Fictional Entrepreneurship allows for innovation within a fictional model. It allows for wiggle room, iteration, failure, and for ideas to transform into other ideas. Fictional Entrepreneurship is about raising social and critical dialogue around issues within our daily lives, our governments, and our societies. It is about telling a damn good story, but above all, about creating things that could never exist, or changing that which we think we have an understanding of. It is about being an entrepreneur of the “impractical.”

“Mainly they were worried about the future, and they would badger us about what’s going to happen to us. Finally, I said: ‘Look, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. This is the century in which you can be proactive about the future; you don’t have to be reactive. The whole idea of having scientists and technology is that those things you can envision and describe can actually be built.’ It was a surprise to them and it worried them.” – Alan Kay

Diegetic Business, on the other hand, is about the transformation from fiction to non-fiction. Diegetic Business is not “non-fiction,” it is the in-between of the imaginary and the real. It is a process that begins to involve people, profit, non-profit, etc., but is not quite there yet. Diegetic Business is about failure, problem-making, and being a naive inventor.

If entrepreneurship and innovation are about making a need that only that product can fill, entrepreneurship, like design, is growing as a field that is not “problem-solving,” but “problem-making.” True innovation, and true futuring practices come not from fixing things, but breaking them.

Why would we want to foster entrepreneurs and business models that do not take care of our daily annoyances, but create them? Why would a consumer ever engage with a product that make their life less efficient? We don’t want to, and they wouldn’t, but it is a necessary step in this transformative phase from the imaginary to the real. A successful entrepreneur, or “future inventor” does not meet our current needs, but foresees our future needs and problems. In order to do this, they need to make them.

 “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish.” – Marshall McCluhan. 

If you are immersed in the context and the content, you have an extremely difficult time being able to see what is going on. This is proof of the idea that being naive is actually crucial when approaching the design of a business model. In a conversation with Peter Lunenfeld, a master of futuring practices and media design education, he claimed that we, as a society, need more “hedgefoxes.” A hybrid creature that is part hedgehog (able to deep-dive into a subject matter), and part fox (able to go quickly back and forth between subject matter). I believe the same is in the field of business – it is ideal to be have deep knowledge in one matter, but have hybridity in your nature, allowing you to freely explore other mediums that are unfamiliar to you. Choose mediums you are unfamiliar with, but bring your bits of familiarity with you.

Invisalign, Amir Abolfathi

In April (2011), I paid a visit to some of Silicon Valley’s most successful and innovative entrepreneurs in order to discuss my radical approaches to business and entrepreneurship and get their take on it. One executive in particular, Amir Abolfathi, embodies the persona of a fictional entrepreneur. Amir is the co-inventor of Invisalign, the world’s first invisible teeth correcting device, as well as many other products within the dental industry. When I heard about his newest company, Sonitus Medical, I became intrigued by the project’s “imaginary” qualities – a hearing aid embedded in teeth. Sonitus Medical is the world’s first removable hearing aid that uses bone conduction of the teeth to enhance hearing. Amir admitted to me that, while he is a master of teeth, he honestly knew nothing about the hearing industry before starting this company. He claimed that is was this naivety that actually made him a better innovator in the hearing industry, because it allowed him to come up with hundreds of ideas and sketches that were in no way possible or practical. By leaving practicality behind, and by being naive to the capabilities and possibilities in the hearing industry, Amir was able to come up with ideas that were never previously considered.

Failure, like naivety, in entrepreneurship is critical – this is where fictional entrepreneurship can play a strong role. By being an entrepreneur of fiction (fictional consumers, fictional capital, fictional product), you have nothing to lose, and can iterate freely until ready to become diegetic.

Oblong Industries is a living example of viable business as a result of speculative thinking. Though the goal of the business is not to raise social and critical dialogue, it remains a prime example of Fictional Entrepreneurship due to it’s ability to influence a change on humanity’s perception of daily lives and routine. Originally a fantastical image of the future, the infamous “Minority Report” interface has been made a reality by the “g-speak” platform, a product of Oblong Industries and the speculative design innovation of John Underkoffler, the technology consultant for Minority Report, and the Chief Scientist for Oblong. In 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong Industries to see the product in action, and meet the CEO, Kwindla Hultman Kramer. A highlight from my discussion with Kwindla asked the question: “Is the process of making a concept of fiction a viable business model a difficult one?” Kwindla informed me that he believes all innovative business starts as fictional construct, but that the process of attracting investors to believe in such a speculative concept can be a difficult one. I argue that the detail seen in the design of Minority Report’s gestural interface successfully suspends the audience’s disbelief and uses fictional entrepreneurship to make these abstract visions of the future tangible.

While the interfaces and products in Minority Report are the result of a fictional entrepreneur’s innovations, the interfaces and products of Ooblong industries are that of a Diegetic Business – they are able to hold onto the innovative and imaginative qualities of the fictional series of explorations as seen in the movie, while seamlessly entering the beginning stages of commercialization.

The transformation from a fictional enterprise to a diegetic enterprise does not need to be one with commercial intentions, but can also be one that is used as a tool for raising social dialogue and maintaining critical integrity. The successful qualities of using business as a medium for these kinds of communicative tools is that it is very accessible – business is a medium that everyone (whether it is realized or not) is a part of. We are surrounded by business, and are embedded within business on a daily basis. Therefore, using business as a tool for raising these issues or jamming our culture can reach a larger market and attract more participation then any other medium. Two examples of Diegetic Business, and entrepreneurs of cultural criticism are The Yes Men and Natalie Jerimijenko’s “Environmental Health Clinic.”

The Yes Men are a group of over 300 culture jammers. They impersonate leaders and big corporations in order to publicly humiliate them while raising dialogue around the wrong-doings we often forget about. Most recently, The Yes Men executed a prank known as Coal Cares™, a fictional non-profit that posed as an initiative of Chevron.

 Coal Cares™ is a brand-new initiative from Chevron, one of America’s proud family of coal companies, to reach out to American youngsters with asthma and to help them keep their heads high in the face of those who would treat them with less than full dignity. For kids who have no choice but to use an inhaler, Coal Cares™ lets them inhale with pride. (http://coalcares.org/)

A Diegetic Business, Coal Cares™ had the mission of making coal cool for kids, providing some very exciting inhalers. They even had one with Justin Beiber on it. So why is this a Diegetic Business as opposed to a Fictional Enterprise? Coal Cares™, and the rest of The Yes Men’s work goes beyond the imaginary by brining fictional personas and products into a society as a way to shift culture. These projects are Diegetic because they exist as operating businesses that have roots in the imaginary, but are able to maintain the social and critical values through the threshold of “real.” They are an artifact – extracted from a story. How can a simple object, a result of critical-entrepreneurial thinking, use charm and humor to communicate a profound cultural issue?

Natalie Jerimijenko takes existing models and re-mixes them to raise dialogue around social and environmental dialogue. Jerimijenko’s business, The Environmental Health Clinic, operates as any other health clinic would, but instead of coming to this particular clinic with your own health issues, you come to it to discuss the health of your environment. After their consultation, visitors of the clinic are given tools for water sampling to understand the state of their water supply raise, and raise their issues with people of office.

The Environmental Health Clinic is a Diegetic Business that begins to engage a culture by giving them real, working, products to both educate and empower them to raise their own dialogue and start their own initiatives around environmental issues. The bizarre nature of their sampling tools immediately provokes questioning from the peers around them – this creates a model which uses diegetic artifacts to tell the story to others, and watch it spread virally throughout the city.

“These bespoke futures go beyond profit and loss statements, to create an opportunity space for the imagination, enabling individuals and independent groups to create visions of the future that inspire them. The point is to move from P&L to V&F—profit and loss to vision and futurity—from ROI to ROV –the Return on Investment to a Return on Vision.” (Lunenfeld)

The key to creating a Utopian vision of the future is community engagement and the collective agreement of the masses. As Peter Lunenfeld highlights in his book, “The Secret War of Downloading and Uploading,” a Dystopian vision, “Mutants in the Rosebowl,” is the default answer from designers of the future because utopia can not be agreed upon. Utopia is different for every individual, like a fingerprint, no one person’s perception of utopia can ever be the same and another’s. Dystopia, on the other hand, is widely agreed upon. How can we start planning for a more ideal future, designing one that we would actually appreciate engaging in dialogue around? How can we, as designers of the future, design utopia for a wide demographic that extends beyond ourselves? How can an entrepreneurial method / approach to thinking engage a wide audience, or at least one that is bigger than ourselves?

But non-fiction is not enough.

People are a critical force behind the evolution of a diegetic business to a non-non-fiction business. Employees, innovators, consumers – people. People are needed to share the visions – to create a collective ideal, to be collective entrepreneurs, and to “make it real.”

Works Cited:

  1. – Kay, Alan. “Predicting The Future.” Ecotopia, 20 May 2011. <http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/futures.htm&gt;
  2. – McCluhan, Marshall. Quoted in “Predicting The Future.” Alan C. Kay, Ecotopia. 20 May 2011. <http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/futures.htm&gt;
  3. – The Yes Men. “Coal Cares™.” 30 May. 2011. <http://www.coalcares.org&gt;

Fictional Entrepreneurship

Numbers are a hindrance on history-making skills. Producing cultural change is an act that is far too radical for a quantitative practice. Entrepreneurs, and researchers of business often turn towards numbers to see how coordination or reallocation can be optimized to provide a great benefit to either corporate or social entities. A quantitative and theoretical stance like this is actually crippling to the radical thinking an entrepreneur is capable of, limiting their ability to innovate that which does not exist and change the way we, as consumers and human beings perceive the world around us, on both a macro and micro scale. Culture-shifting entrepreneurs open possibilities for consumers to change the way they see themselves. What is a logo? What is a business? If a logo is merely a representation of something, perhaps it is not limited to a vector or typeface, but instead can be understood in terms of architectural structure. In the same way, perhaps a business is not an exporter of goods and services, but instead a manufacturer of vision, narrative, and critical discourse. Perhaps business is a way of seeing the world from the lens of the future as a way to understand the here and now. The latter is what this essay explores.

“Why waste your time trying to discover the truth when you can so easily create it?” (Baldacci)

Sealand (wikipedia)

“The appearance of objects in information society […] is no longer primarily visual, but informational. The informational imprint of a brand – or lack thereof – provides a new paradigm for it’s management. Sealand could be a model (a construction) without crest, logo, or identity. Something implicitly suggested rather than explicitly stated.” (Metahaven 52)

Lifestyle, Social, and Serial are the current ways of defining an Entrepreneur’s intentions. An understanding of these three approaches to entrepreneurship is crucial as we begin to examine the need for a new category. The Lifestyle Entrepreneur is a catalyst for enterprise that is motivated by a deep passion for the goods and services they produce. This can be often found in local, “brick and mortar,” business as well as extreme niches and family owned business, passed down from generation to generation. The principal of a “lifestyle enterprise” takes sincere pride in the tradition of their business as well as the integrity of their exports, placing that love before revenue. Perhaps a more “greedy” category of entrepreneurial endeavor is known as the “serial entrepreneur.” A serial entrepreneur is a business innovator that is attracted to profit and tends to see a value and opportunity in everything. These are the kinds of innovators that will sell something they feel no passion towards just to turn a profit. Revenue is the primary concern. Businesses that are the result of such intentions tend to be knock-off brands, or other products and services that lack originality and innovation. The final category within the field of entrepreneurship is the Social Entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is a designer of business whose intentions are not in capital gain, but instead in the advancement of the greater good of society. A social enterprise is one that thinks and operates as a non-profit organization would, but has interesting design in it’s planning so as to be able to sustain itself and actually create a profit as opposed to relying on funding from the government or local donors. This innovative approach to business is often referred to as “good capitalism,” a response to the greed and excess the business industry is so often criticized for. While each of these three approaches to entrepreneurship are drastically different, they each are connected in the sense that they are “reactionary.” It is believed by business theorists that consumers only know what they need after a change or event has taken place (Spinosa 41). Therefore entrepreneurship is always a “response.” I would like to question this outlook on entrepreneurship by suggesting a new category within the field that is not a response, but a catalyst. Fictional Entrepreneurship.

“Why save the world when we can design it?” – Serpica Naro

Now, more than ever, is the time for the field of business, and the role of entrepreneurs to change drastically. We have entered a time in which we lack the capability to foresee what technological advancements and capabilities will take place in the next 4 years. The 10 most sought after jobs of 2010 did not exist in 2004, and I argue that the top 30 jobs of 2017 do not exist as I sit at my desk, typing this today. So how do we, as designers, understand the future of markets, and the future of business design? We make it up.

“Larger providers will engage in a frenzy of consolidations to acquire stockpiles of repurposable content. Diversity declines as the little guys continue to go out of business. This ugly situation will continue until somebody smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity creates new business models with which content – real, engaging content – can flourish. Again, business innovation is as important as technological invention. We face a crisis in content – who will make it, how will it be paid for, and what will it be worth in a new media world?” (Laurel 93)

It should go without saying that imaginary thinking and fiction is a necessity in the field of business. Without invention and risk-taking, the world becomes synonymous to a treadmill. I argue that the innovation process can be pushed to a radical extreme, a level none of us can possibly foresee or imagine. This requires a substantial risk, calling for the entrepreneur to not be one with capitalistic and financial obsession, but instead an innovator of fiction to inspire and frame futures that we can understand and work towards. To succeed in this age of technological innovation that has proven to spread faster than a bad rash, we really have no choice but to work in terms of fantasy. I should be clear in my definition of “success” here by stating that success is measured here by the impact of change in a culture’s understanding of the world around them. If that substantial impact of change includes a revenue, then so be it, but that is not the priority here. Fictional Entrepreneurship takes what is expected of the future, and turns it on it’s head in order to change the ways in which we understand the world, and the way we understand the future of business design. It is a method of story-telling through imagining new business and a tool to help imagine new innovations within the business industry in order to craft the culture of the future, or critique the culture of the present.

The design of fictional business can accomplish more than the design or growth of any non-fictional business. Business is an industry that is extremely limited by practicality due to the interest of investors, demographics, and financial matters. The desire for efficiency and viability is a hindrance on the creativity of an entrepreneur, and the ability for an entrepreneur to define our future. Fictional Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, requires no investment of money, only the investment of imagination. This form of “investment” not only allows us to imagine what future business may be capable of, but also define our future culture. An interesting tool that Design Fiction (speculative, critical and narrative driven design) brings to the table an advocacy for the use of an expansive imagination and an elimination of practicality in order to pose questions that, like Science Fiction, are not impossible, but possible.  In the same way, Fictional Entrepreneurship offers a method that calls for a complete abandonment of practicality in order to think in new, very specific ways and radical ways, with the intention to generalize and inspire a practical, real, outcome.

minority report

Oblong Industries is a living example of viable business as a result of speculative thinking. Though the goal of the business is not to raise social and critical dialogue, it remains a prime example of Fictional Entrepreneurship due to it’s ability to influence a change on humanity’s perception of daily lives and routine. Originally a fantastical image of the future, the infamous “Minority Report” interface has been made a reality by the “g-speak” platform, a product of Oblong Industries and the speculative design innovation of John Underkoffler, the technology consultant for Minority Report, and the Chief Scientist for Oblong. In 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong Industries to see the product in action, and meet the CEO, Kwindla Hultman Kramer. A highlight from my discussion with Kwindla asked the question: “Is the process of making a concept of fiction a viable business model a difficult one?” Kwindla informed me that he believes all innovative business starts as fictional construct, but that the process of attracting investors to believe in such a speculative concept can be a difficult one. I argue that the detail seen in the design of Minority Report’s gestural interface successfully suspends the audience’s disbelief and uses fictional entrepreneurship to make these abstract visions of the future tangible.

“Corporate accountability: The Home Depots and Nikes of the world have greater capacity to achieve more for greater good because of their scale. Once incremental change for them becomes massive change for the entire industry.” (Mau 131)

“Peace of Mind™,” Jackson Wang

I argue that future thinking in regards to entrepreneurship is not only a method of creating speculative enterprise, but also social enterprise. An inherent issue with capitalism is it’s tendency to not only think of the here and now as opposed to the future implications of our work. A fictional entrepreneur is one that creates the ideal in order to imagine a perfect future, using fiction to work towards it and to express it. In a sense, it is this idealism, and ability to create culture-shifting models that makes a fictional entrepreneur something far more powerful than any CEO – a critical design entrepreneur. Jackson Wang’s “Peace of Mind™” uses “Speculative Intrapreneurship,” a technique Fictional Entrepreneurship, to imagine a future collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and Target. “Speculative Intrapreneurship” is the use of fiction to imagine a pre-existing business or institution in a different, often-times future, scenario. Through this “Intrapreneurial” fantasy depicted in “Peace of Mind™,” Jackson Wang successfully transforms two well known entities in a way that makes the critical and political commentary on society’s hyper-paranoia in regards to terrorism tangible, and grounded in a world we all understand.

“Contempt for the intelligence of the audience engenders graphics that lie… graphic excellence begins with telling the truth.” – Edward R. Tufte

As we see with the “Peace of Mind™” project, Fictional Entrepreneurship’s capabilities are not limited to the cultivation and invention of new markets, products, and services through imagination and speculation in the field of business alone. Fictional Entrepreneurship also has the ability to work within the realm of research and academia, adopting this speculative approach as a way to talk about complex issues in an accessible manner. I argue that fictional entrepreneurship allows us to not only speculate the future, but influence and invent it. By not responding to change and instead serving as a catalyst for it, we are not “guessing” the future needs or desires, but we are initiating them. I find this to be true entrepreneurship.

“Tools for Improved Social Interaction” & “Conversacube” by Lauren McCarthy

If design fiction is meant to “exercise the human imagination,” (Bleecker) as Julian Bleecker states in his essay that defined the practice, then why are the forms and language surrounding these projects often times so inaccessible? Pushing this line of work into the context of a business, something we encounter daily, and that we are all a part of, we are able to make critical discourse approachable and transparent in and out of academia’s very tall walls. Powerful critical design does not present itself as critical design. Powerful design fiction does not present itself as fiction. I argue that instead, a critical message that will truly resonate with an audience is one that suspends disbelief, and Fictional Entrepreneurs have this capability. Lauren McCarthy is a critical design entrepreneur with an interest in the effects of technology on our society’s social interactions.

McCarthy’s work takes the shape of technological innovation products as a way to both suspend the audience’s disbelief, and make this critical discourse accessible to a wider audience. “The Happiness Hat” is a part of the “Tools for Improved Social Interaction” series, and is a wearable device that “trains” the user to smile more through a punishment system that stabs the hat-wearer in the back of the head when a frown is detected. “Conversacube,” like “The Happiness Hat,” trains the user to adapt to social situations by prompting each conversant with directions or specific lines to keep the conversation running seamlessly with minimal awkward pauses and uncomfortable moments. What new products and services will emerge as our society becomes more and more socially inept due to invasive technology? How can we stop these products from ever having to be manufactured? The latter is at the heart, or communicative desire, of a dystopian, fictional, enterprise such as the models of business presented in Lauren McCarthy’s work, but what is the advantage of mass-production?

“People with imagination may be able to achieve a synthesis with a given combination that other people would be unable to visualize. It is the imagination that dictates what kinds of synthesis are believed to be possible.” (Casson 120)

“Queer Technologies,” Zach Blas

Queer Technologies is a fictional organization founded by critical design entrepreneur, Zach Blas. QT explores the concept of an “interstitial organization” that innovates and manufactures a product line for queer agencies, interventions, and social formations. Blas describes his work as being an established flow of resistance within a larger sphere of capitalist structure that uses common viral tactics of mass production and dissemination as atool for engaging an audience in discourse surrounding issues of queer socialites in current technological trends.

“Queer Technologies product line includes transCoder, a queer programming antilanguage; ENgenderingGenderChangers, a “solution” to Gender Adapters’ male/female binary; Gay Bombs, a technical manual manifesto that outlines a “how to” of queer political action through terrorist assemblages of networked activism; GRID, an etymological reformulation of the name briefly held by HIV/AIDS and digital grids of communication and transmission, is a data visualization application that tracks the dissemination of QT products and maps the “battle plans” for spreading, networking, and infection.” (Blas)

The “Queer Technologies” project uses “Shop Dropping,” a technique of fictional entrepreneurship, as a tool for engaging a larger audience. A “shop dropper” creates a fictional product and places it in a store in which the entrepreneur sees fit, left for consumers to stumble upon. “QT” products such as the “ENgenderingGenderchangers” were dropped in Radio Shacks, Best Buys, and other technology shops across the nation (until they were discovered by the employees, of course). This tactic allows the discourse to enter the public realm, simultaneously suspending the consumer’s disbelief while allowing them to question reality, and raise questions of their own around the critical issues at hand. What if critical design entrepreneurs were not the sole practitioners of their fictional enterprise, but instead designed a model that allows anyone to take part in the manufacturing of critical goods?

Measures of Discontent,” Michael Kontopoulos

“Measures of Discontent” is a line of dystopian products by Michael Kontopoulos, a fictional entrepreneur. Equally inspired and disgusted by the tradition of “Gross National Happiness” in Bhutan, an effort to impose quantifiable values to the “happiness” of it’s people, Kontopoulos’ critical scenarios imagine a future in which products / tools are manufactured to allow users to measure their discontent. But Kontopoulos is not the sole proprietor of his fictional enterprise, it is open source. In the true spirit of an imaginative future in which these tools would be needed by all, schematics and step-by-step guides are provided, as part of the project, so that anyone could theoretically build these devices on their own. In the true spirit of fictional entrepreneurship, the body of work presents the audience with something that is not impossible, but possible, and in doing so, allows us to imagine the possible ramifications and implications of such a world.

We have just explored a small sampling of projects that sit on the threshold of critical design, fiction, and entrepreneurship. Whether the projects are gestural interfaces from science fiction films, or a desire to raise dialogue around technologically crippled social interactions, all of these projects have the potential to shift our culture and change the perspective of a society – through fiction.

But fiction is not enough.

The invention of fantasy, scenarios, and products of fiction is not where the process ends, it is what allows us to see and react to what is needed. To continue requires fictional entrepreneurs to take a fictional construct and root it back into what is feasible today. In doing so, a critical design entrepreneur creates a model that is far more powerful then the suspension of disbelief, the design of “fact.” Could a fictional entrepreneur, then, actually be non-fictional? Fictional Entrepreneurship is not an ending point, but instead a process that leads critical design entrepreneurs to non-fictional innovation, or “diegetic business.” In creative fiction writing, diegesis is a tool for crafting an “inner world,” or defining the setting of a story. A diegetic business, then, is an enterprise that serves as a metaphor for the context around it. It is a non-fictional business that can tell a story and serve as a representation for the criticality it hopes to communicate, the time in which it exists, and the narrative it hopes to tell. What does Diegetic Business look like?

Works Cited:

  1. – Baldacci, David. “The Whole Truth.” quoted in Newsweek.
  2. – Blas, Zach. “Queer Technologies.” Zach Blas. 25 Mar. 2011. <http://www.zachblas.info&gt;.
  3. – Berman, David. do good design. Berkely: AIGA Design Press, 2009.
  4. – Bleecker, Julian. “Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction.” Near Future Laboratory. 29 Mar. 2009. 12 Mar. 2011. <http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com/&gt;.
  5. – Casson, The Entrepreneur, 120. quoted in Disclosing New Worlds.
  6. – Laurel, Brenda. Utopian Entrepreneur. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001.
  7. – Mau, Bruce. Massive Change. London: Phaidon, 2004.
  8. – McCarthy, Lauren. “Tools for Improved Social Interaction.” Lauren McCarthy. 12 Mar. 2011. <http://www.lauren-mccarthy.com&gt;.
  9. – McCarthy, Lauren. “Conversacube.” Lauren McCarthy. 12 Mar. 2011. <http://www.lauren-mccarthy.com&gt;.
  10. – MetaHaven. UNCORPORATE IDENTITY. Switzerland: Lars Muller Publishers, 2010.
  11. – Spinosa, Charles, Fernando Flores, and Hubert L. Dreyfus. Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and The Cultivation of Solidarity. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1997.
  12. – Wang, Jackson. “Peace of Mind™.” Peace of Mind™. 06 Mar. 2011. <http://www.peaceofmind.us.com&gt;.