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TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
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Powerless Politics

Nathalie Kamp, Youp Ferket, Floris Thoonen

This project deals with making possible futures tangible in order to shape perceptions around pressing issues of our time and the future. What if we had to live with less energy?

“We should learn to live with less instead of trying to match current consumption-levels”

Growing consumerism in the last century has resulted in an increased dependency on energy and altering our way of life forever. Unfortunately, frequently losing access to electricity will likely become a more common reality, due to extreme weather, caused by climate change damaging infrastructure, among other things. Despite the awareness of the risks of this dependency, and the detrimental effect of consumerism on our environment, imagining an alternative seems to be uniquely challenging. Designers have an opportunity to reshape humanity's relationship with energy in our everyday lives, but how can such a drastic alternate vision be communicated?  

Opening minds to alternative ways of life has always been done effectively in works of fiction, often employing detailed visions of the future. Using similar storytelling-inspired techniques, the team designed an experiential future to gain insights into the existing values that define quality of life with respect to consumption and energy dependency. To challenge dominant industry narratives about the future, a new vision was created which revolved around the idea of having a planned power outage every third week. It wouldn’t be a total power outage, with limited energy still available for what is deemed valuable by the government. The experience included a mock election where participants voted on parties based on their ideas of how limited energy should be distributed, sparking discussion and revealing what the participants value.

Envisioning a bright future is necessary, especially considering the overwhelming pessimism that exists towards the future of the planet. Furthermore, this project demonstrates that thinking about the future in a concrete and immersive experience can make people reflect on how they live their lives today, leading to current impact. The experience shows people often tend to let energy dictate their perception of quality of life. Exposing them to a future where quality of life isn't based on the abundance of energy, challenged them to rethink the possibilities for the future. Designers have the responsibility to broaden the horizon through encouraging alternative paths for society to take, such as rethinking the power that energy has over our lives.

“I was surprised by the nuance that was achieved in the conversations about the future.”