Undercover Fictions

Not hoaxes, yet still slightly deceptive. Futures disguised as facts can stir up a crowd and reveal unique perspectives.
6 Dec 2017

When presented undercover, fictions are often understood as hoaxes aimed at deceiving their audience. To us, they are ways to talk about possible futures as if they were already happening — to make them more relatable, and debatable. They give abstract visions just enough tangibility to let the audience engage with them. The best fictions feel both exotic and familiar, following the idea that “if we told you this exists somewhere else, you would believe it.”

This cre­ates a shared immer­sive expe­ri­ence around some­thing inher­ent­ly the­o­ret­i­cal. Fic­tions like these usu­al­ly hap­pen in pub­lic and take the form of talks, per­for­mances, or PR oper­a­tions, all designed to be plau­si­ble enough for view­ers to let their guard down and be trans­port­ed by pos­si­bil­i­ties. But, these pos­si­bil­i­ties must be imper­fect enough that they ques­tion our core val­ues. They must also remain under­cov­er long enough for these con­ver­sa­tions to hap­pen ‘in die­ge­sis’ or with­in the fic­tion, but not so long that they become deceptive.

It is of course a del­i­cate bal­ance that must be found. Releas­ing a fic­tion on pub­lic chan­nels presents its own chal­lenges to main­tain a cer­tain sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief once the ini­tial prompts have been pub­lished. It requires plan­ning fic­tion­al mile­stones and the reveal moment ahead of the orig­i­nal release, so that even unex­pect­ed devel­op­ments can be made to fit the script.

Ulti­mate­ly, under­cov­er fic­tions must be under­stood as a means to an end: a tool to make imper­fect futures feel con­tem­po­rary, col­lect a public’s reac­tion to a broad­er dis­course on the future, and invite crit­i­cism from with­in a spec­u­la­tive and safe space.