Imagining 2031 Fariz: From Black Mirror to a Kaleidoscope
Creative Chronicles is a series of articles exploring the lives of four Singaporean Creatives. Previously in Series 2, our Creatives wrote a heartfelt letter to their younger selves. In this Series 3, they explore the question, What would I want my life to be like in 2031?
First, they acknowledged a challenge that they are facing today. Then, they reimagined alternate possible futures regarding those challenges through a Futures Thinking technique called Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) with the Studio Dojo team. Delving deep into a perspective, CLA comprises 4 levels: litany, systemic, worldview & story. CLA suggests that in order to make sustained changes, we need to look into deeper layers of meaning to create new stories that support our preferred future.
In this article, we chat with Fariz, Senior User Experience Designer at Chemistry. His main challenge is his current state of languish because of how uncertain the future seems for him. Through this exercise, Fariz shifts his story of himself from a black mirror, that reflects and unveils truths within society, to a kaleidoscope that shows different colours and perspectives. To shift, he embraces different perspectives, holds difficult conversations and reimagines algorithms, thus designing an understanding of society that is whole.
Studio Dojo: What is a challenge that you are currently facing?
I feel languished because of how uncertain the future is. My colleague shared an article about how many people are not feeling motivated but yet are not depressed, and ‘languish’ is the word to describe this feeling of stuckness. That resonated with me.
With the pandemic, there’s constant change and we’re stuck in this limbo. I don’t know how to move forward with things because I don’t know whether my efforts to make things better are going to happen. There’s no certainty, so I struggle not having full control over that clarity that I want in my life to move forward.
Studio Dojo: What is the story you currently hold regarding this challenge?
The series ‘Black Mirror’ comes to mind. The metaphor black mirror here refers to the screens of our technological device when turned off, and how we see our reflections in them. The show’s rather dystopic but it reflects social implications of technology that are already happening in our world today. That’s how it feels for me right now. I feel as if I’m in a dystopia, like in a George Orwell book – can’t freely go out, very limited social interaction and technology has replaced certain things previously done through human interaction.
Objects in the (black) mirror are further than they appear
I see how COVID measures affect the way I communicate with people. Personally, I would rather meet someone over brunch and hang out than talk online. Online communication for me has been transient and non-committal, I reply as and when and it’s not a full slate of conversation. There’s this intermittent nature to it, which is good as a pulse check that we’re still connected, but to really get to know someone, it’s not an ideal experience.
Introspectively, I also realise this growing mindset: Aiyah if this happens, it happens, there’s nothing I can do about it. While it helps me accept that things won’t always go my way, it impacts me mentally, physically and spiritually. When you repeat that over and over again without much light at the end of the tunnel, it can put you in a bad space. So I’m trying to focus on myself because that’s the only thing I can do anything about right now – myself and how I see things. But when you have work and so many things going on, it’s also hard to remain motivated to do so.
Social and technology systems see me through
Having the right community – the place, the people – impacts my motivation. I do pole fitness and before COVID, I would go to the studio twice or thrice a week and be motivated because I wanted to work towards achieving a particular move. However, now that studios are closed and my favourite instructors are no longer there, I admit that my motivation of wanting to do well has decreased.
The community was the social support I needed. I realised that once there isn’t a support system that I could rely on, then I have to depend on myself but I find it very hard to be disciplined. There’s a difference between being motivated and disciplined, right?
While I’m still learning to be more disciplined, technology does help me facilitate systems of habits in place. For example, when I work out, I use an app to track my exercises and be consistent. Another habit is to scroll through social media. When I do that, I’m mostly looking at people who I do know, and then I’m reminded to have conversations with them, so these systems in place have a causal effect on me.
Technology reflects our light and our darkness
I hold the worldview that ultimately, we are social beings. Yes, we learn to love ourselves and be independent but at the end of the day, you also need someone to get you through the tides. For me, community is important. It’s having a tribe that you can be comfortable with, to live your authentic self without any judgment. Having that community, and social support that comes with it, is definitely a motivation for me to build sustainable habits for myself.
But when technology and community intersect, I see that we also need to acknowledge that the world is complex and hold space for that, there isn’t a black and white to it. It’s very interesting particularly on social media, I observe this ongoing tribalism – if you don’t agree with what I say, you’re not my friend and please unfollow me. Because it’s very easy to craft this ideal online persona, it’s almost like another identity that you harness and it wants to find its community. Often, this tribalism hinders us from having proper discourses. People are just consuming things online and not fully understanding and talking to the people on the ground. For me, it’s more complex than just sharing and reposting things in the name of activism.
Studio Dojo: What is the story you would like to hold regarding this challenge?
So while the black mirror is the screen of our phones, within those pixels, there are RGBs, and you can come up with so many hues. You see different perspectives of one thing. My new story is of a kaleidoscope, every time you shake it, you see something different. I think it’s a nice analogy of how a digital phone which is lifeless can be alive in the future.
I hope that in the future, technology will address that most issues are not two-dimensional, neither black nor white, but of many hues and shades. There are different dimensions and levels of complexity to it, just like the kaleidoscope. In this future world, we can all live our authentic selves without judgement.
Serving a spectrum in deeds, not just words
On a daily basis, I hope there would be more diversity and inclusivity both in physical spaces and our conversations. Bringing back to feeling languished, it is something we grapple with mentally and it’s difficult because it’s intangible. There’s a lot of probing and inferencing in order to understand or diagnose your situation. It would be great if in the future, mental wellness is a given – Oh, you feel exhausted or anxious? Maybe you might want to see someone or you might want to take an MC. That approach might help with the anxiety and uncertainty that comes from experiencing it.
Overall, I think there’ll also be a lot of conversations on creating inclusive environments. There are already conversations on that but I feel that it’s still in its infancy. For example, if I’m doing an event in a museum, I would want this space to be multisensorial. But that can also be quite overwhelming for people who are on the special needs spectrum, right? So how can we make that experience accessible to these people so that we don’t neglect them?
A system that shakes things up
What would be great would be algorithms that give us alternative views as well. I think that today, algorithms have made it easy for people to be siloed and kept in this echo chamber. To have a proper worldview and better representation of people, I feel that the algorithm can’t just be focused on the user’s preference.
The system cannot just think about the human needs because our needs can be quite egoistic. Beyond giving the content that people want, there needs to be a lens on ethics and sustainability too, which is why I think understanding behavioral insights is also important. What does ethical design mean in the future? Can we provide content that is safe while still representing varying views of the world?
Different angles, different understandings
My worldview here would be one where we are more understanding and aware of our surroundings. Based on how digitally connected we are, I have faith that we will grow to do so. If anything, it’s really about understanding people from all walks of life, not just people from Syria or Sri Lanka, but also your next-door neighbour. It’s about understanding that there are still prejudices in Singapore that we need to be aware of, and how we can use our privileges to further understand and shed light on things that perhaps certain minorities are not able to bring up.
For us to understand, I feel that these difficult conversations are needed. Once we have a better understanding of what’s going on, then it’s a lot easier to move forward.
Catch up on Fariz’s articles