This is a project completed in a studio built on the ideas speculative design pioneer team Dunne & Raby introduce in their groundbreaking text Speculative Everything. In it, they “propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be—to imagine possible futures…Dunne and Raby pose ‘what if’ questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want).”
I explored the idea of homelessness in proximity to cities, where shadow societies develop between the cracks in the urban environment. I worked on the excellent Street Voice production of The Washtenaw Voice, which explored the largely undocumented lives of Ann Arbor's homeless people. The reporting done on Camp Take Notice in this piece was very inspiring. Above photos courtesy of Jared Angle.
There is no sign that the United States’ political system will resemble an oligarchy any less in the foreseeable future—the people responsible for changing these corrupt practices are the ones cashing the checks. Starving and homeless lower class citizens are driven to desperation. Even those who are lucky enough to work full-time often face poverty, struggling to cling to the lowest rungs of the economy.
Homelessness is criminalized as business owners and neighborhoods push homeless people out with a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality that provides no alternatives. Homeless communities already crop up on the edge of our society, pooling what little resources they have to survive. Villages of tents occupy forgotten space and public parks in the night.
New American Democracy imagines a future where those who are struggling to hang onto the lowest rung build a new ladder. It's a smaller pie—but each citizen gets an equal piece. As members of the growing lower class find themselves continually marginalized and forced out of their homes, they create a shadow society that does not rely on the larger government. The resources brought by the once voiceless but surviving economic tiers of society are used to create more than a sea of tents under an overpass: an idealized and thriving democracy modeled loosely after Athens in the fifth-century BC. What tools would these refugees use to keep their democracy pure?