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Design, fiction and the medical humanities
  1. Christopher Gordon Strachan
  1. Correspondence to Christopher Gordon Strachan, 59 Merchiston Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland EH10 5AH, UK; cgstrachan{at}


This paper sets out to explore the similarities between the developing discipline of speculative and critical design (SCD) and science fiction, and their relevance to the medical humanities. SCD looks beyond ‘commercial design’ to consider what sort of things we should, or should not, be designing in order to create preferable futures. It does so by extrapolating from current social, economic, political and scientific knowledge, designing artefacts, experiences and scenarios which communicate futures and alternative realities in tangible ways. By first outlying the relevance of SCD to the medical humanities, through its ability to imagine and visualise preferable healthcare futures, the paper will then discuss several recent design projects which focus on current and future ethical issues raised by emerging biotechnology. Through these projects, the paper will look at SCD's ability to provoke, engage and critique science and society, while also critically reflecting on the limitations of the evolving design discipline. Through the paper it is hoped that there can be an increased understanding of SCD and its ambitions, as well as its limitations, in order for SCD to better approach issues relating to health and wellbeing, along with other difficult and challenging issues which will affect all us today and into the (sci-fi) future.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.