Whose visions of the future are we designing for?

Co-Creating Farming Futures

Graduation Project
M.Des 2016
Product Design

This project explored future narratives about the use of emerging technologies for farming in Melghat, a region comprising approximately three hundred villages in Maharashtra. They acted as an aid to creating actionable transition plans for NGOs working in the region. The resulting outcomes are speculative representations and prototypes of alternative, novel agricultural futures. These futures are located in the everyday, rather than the far-future, where extreme versions of technology are often associated with speculative design in India.

This project was a compilation of two inquiries that run parallelly. The first was directed towards broader social and political phenomena which acted as a playground for the second inquiry - critically questioning the speculative design practice. While technological innovations are rapidly emerging, it is not always easy to keep up with the speed of the associated changes. Indian culture and behaviors do not change as quickly as the world around, so how does culture adapt to technology? What would technology look like if it was developed in smaller places like Melghat instead of Silicon Valley?

This project started with an inquiry and attempted to create scenarios around these inquiries with tangible and realistic objects fabricated with an experience of a hopeful future. I not only engaged the smallholder farmers of Melghat but also explored local ways of storytelling to take the spectacular out of the speculative. It would offer a platform to tell the stories of the marginalized communities of Melghat; their dreams, hopes, needs and desires.

The more people that are involved in a design process, the more robust the world-building scenarios are. Designers are not necessarily experts, the everyday people who live the experience are. Therefore, design cannot exist in isolation. It is essential for a designer to understand the social, cultural and physical environment in which their design will operate so that it is relevant to the people. I learned that everyone is creative, and as a designer, I can help them materialize their ideas. It is not necessary for me to be an expert, I can be a facilitator. It is something I have become conscious of while working on this project - the ethos of field research.


“The future helps see the present anew, it makes the present remarkable. Scenarios, understood in this way, are less about contingency of clarifying alternatives, and more about transforming today. They help us see what is right and wrong about today, and what a new future can be."
- Sohail Inayatullah

“The crises in design in the Global North are the crises of the abstract framed as possibilities, as opportunities, as futures. Our crises in the Global South are the crises of the concrete present; our challenge is to wrest from the present the agency to both imagine futures and to design them.”
- Ahmed Ansari

“SCD is about acting as that bridge or being the facilitator to help surface future narratives which need to reach whoever the decision maker/power holder in that ecosystem or dismantled power structures is"
- Pupul Bisht