Rendering Realities – essay for Noon magazine’s Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The essay explores the way the future is rendered into reality in every day life through software in the city. 

The future is a moving target. It’s always receding to the horizon as old futures are brought into the present. What may seem futuristic now will be present tomorrow but there’ll still always be the idea of futirity, the things that we orient towards. The technological anthropologist Alfred Gell once described this as ‘enchantment;’ the present that creates its own futures.

For example, with the invention of the car came the the idea of the flying car and we set off almost immediately on the path of developing the flying car, or the robot car, or the green car. These futures are reinforced and made material by cultural imaginaries. The Jetsons showed us what the flying car should look, sound and work like and we built our expectations around that. A famous but perhaps apocryphal story about the first flip phone by Motorola tells of how the engineers couldn’t understand why people weren’t buying it until they were told that users expected it to open like the Tricorders on Star Trek. One quick redesign later and flip phones were everywhere. Go to any technology faire and you’ll find designers and developers working on future interfaces drawing influence from the AI from Spike Jonze’s Her or the gestural interface of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. There’s a feedback loop between the reality of technology and our expectations of it. Life should be like it is on screen.


Last updated: 05.2020