International summer school

NeoRural Futures

Speculative Designs for rurality in global scenarios

What are the possible, imaginable and preferable futures of rurality?
We live in globalized times: global phenomena profoundly influence local ones, just as local phenomena influence globality.
How will rural environments change in the near future through the impacts of the global phenomena that are taking place in our planet, like climate change, migrations, new technologies, energy issues, the mutation of cities and of work and the transformation of economy?
How will people live, move, communicate and relate between cities and rurality with these transformations?
How will these changes reflect on people’s daily lives? On the objects they use everyday?
Speculative Design, Design Fiction, Near Future Design and Critical design approaches will help us to create possible, preferable futures for rurality, and to narrate them through the objects and processes of our future lives.

NeoRural Futures is the international summer school of the SpeculativeEdu research project, supported by the European Commission through the Erasmus+ programme.

WHAT An intensive 5 days workshop about speculative design practices, applied to the future of rurality.
WHEN 2-6 September 2019.
WHERE Rome (Italia) – RUFA – Rome University of Fine Arts – Pastificio Cerere – Via degli Ausoni 7

35 participants, 3 coordinators, 5 tutors, a beautiful location in the heart of Rome, a final exhibit to celebrate and expose the results of the workshop, a cultural program with meetings, events and conferences

During the 5 days of the action we will achieve 3 goals:
> experiment in practice the most promising and innovative approaches of speculative design, design fiction, near future design and critical design, to understand how they allow to generate powerful, participatory and inclusive designs which are able to open public, shared reflections on future scenarios for our society, environment and human behaviours;
> apply these approaches to rurality, understanding how the global phenomena of our planet (climate change, migrations, technology, energy, health, the transformation of cities, economy … ) will influence rural environments, from agriculture, to the livelihood of rural villages, to the ways in which cities and rural environments will be interconnected;
> show our findings in a beautiful exhibit across design, technology, art and critical reflection.

The international summer school is open to a maximum of 35 participants, in particular:
> design students, PHDs, researchers, practitioners, makers working/researching in the field of speculative/critical design or designers from other design specialisations, architects, artists, IT experts, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists “and all related/interested backgrounds, interested in learning more about these approaches;
> professionals working in institutions, organizations, interested in learning more about speculative/critical design to acquire/experiment new tools/methods to confront disruptive scenarios;
> students, phd, researchers, professionals, practitioners, institutions and organizations working in the field of rurality and interested in learning/experimenting critical, innovative approaches and cutting edge techniques to build future scenarios, and to engage communities in imagining them and to bringing them to life.

For RUFA students, of all courses, 5 places are reserved and 2 credits will be recognized by the Academy. We recommend the workshop to students of the last year of the BA course and those attending the MA course.

There will be a selection process in which we will choose participants based on their interests, experience, curricula, attitude as well as on skills and competences.

The event is free of charge: participants will pay for their travel and accommodation (we will indicate possible solutions for accomodation in Rome near the workshop location that are comfortable and welcoming, at convenient prices).

Participants will be asked to arrive by Sunday September 1st (or, in any case, in time for the beginning of the plenary session on September 2nd, at 10.00am).

APPLY NOW or learn more following or read more info on the NeoRural Futures Workshop website.

Who are neo-rurals? How do they live? How are people starting to move from cities to rural areas and viceversa? How are these phenomena related? With what effects? How is all of this changing together with technological scenarios (such as AIs, big data, IoT) and global phenomena (such as climate change, migrations, and the transformation of cities)?

During the workshop we will address these questions by using the most interesting approaches in speculative design, as they emerged from the SpeculativeEdu project.

After the welcome and a first plenary session to introduce speculative design and the current trends of the transformation of rurality, participants will work in groups to develop their concepts and scenarios using speculative design approaches and tools.

We will aim at building better understandings about how these changes will reflect on the ground, in people’s daily lives, through the objects, processes and interactions of their ordinary life.

For this, we will select specific rural locations of our planet, to see how change will materialize itself.

Are people purchasing land in northern rural Sweden to prepare for the geopolitical transformations induced by climate change?
Are Italian villages of the XV century about to live a new life through migrations?
Are coastal villages in Thailand preparing for the rise of the sea level?
Are rural inhabitants of Brazil transforming because of the progressive exploitation of rainforests?
Are rural environments of United States and Europe changing because of the rising costs of living in cities?
What are the effects of China purchasing vast parcels of land in Africa to deal with overpopulation?

These are only some of the questions we will ask.

Each group will select one location of interest in the world which is particularly exposed to mutations (also in relation to existing projects, communities or groups which changed the destiny of villages, as well as to the global phenomena of our world), to situate the scenarios in specific cultural, social, anthropological and geographical context.

Structure of the workshop
The workshop is intensive: it starts at 10am each day and ends at 5pm.

> plenary session with experts on rurality, technology, society, environment and speculative design;
formation of the working groups;
> first phase of research and conceptualization.

> research and conceptualization;
> initial preparation of the format in which we will release the outputs and create the exhibit: objects, maps, narratives and information visualizations.

>release of the final concepts;
>preparation and production of the exhibit.

> production and finalization of the outputs and exhibit.

> setup of the exhibit in the wonderful spaces at RUFA university;
> opening of the exhibit;
> speculative design conference;
> networking;
> creative and artistic interventions.

Each day, a cultural program of visits, conferences and meetings – disseminated in different locations of the city relevant for art, design and rurality in Rome – will complete the experience of the workshop: we will meet influential designers, artists and institutions, to explore with them the futures of design and of rurality.

Each group, supported by tutors and coordinators, will transform the concepts into an exhibition output, which will be exposed to the public during the final event of the international summer school.

Each group will produce:
> storytelling of the concept using different media (short videos, audio, images, texts, data visualization) and formats:
– the content organized to generate a situated narrative, by being placed on a map (in printed and digital form), so that the scenarios and concepts will be placed in context, exposing the practical, ordinary, mundane transformations of human life;
– design fiction props will be produced in simple ways – by DIY, recycling, repurposing, re-contextualizing everyday objects – to create diegetic artefacts which will immerse us in the worlds that we are describing, and their positive and negative implications;
> a visual description of the concept (for example a diagram, infographic or information visualization);
> a feedback about the speculative design approaches used during the workshop, highlighting the ways in which they is able to support participatory, institutional, societal and psychological transformation.

The outputs of the workshop and the exhibit will be documented, published and credited to participants, becoming part of the SpeculativeEdu research project.

The workshop will be held in english.

Selected participants will receive research and working materials both in the field of speculative design and of rurality.


The event will be hosted in the beautiful location of RUFA Space, in the Pastificio Cerere: an historical building for contemporary art in the heart of San Lorenzo neighborhood in Rome, close to the main train station (Termini), the historical center of the city, and to the most characteristic neighbourhoods in Rome. San Lorenzo is a neighbourhood with a long popular tradition in the city, and has transformed into a place that welcomes students and researchers from all over the world, as it hosts Rome’s largest university (La Sapienza), CNR (Centro Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy’s National Research Center), as well as a selection of some of the most famous art, culture, food and nightlife locations in the city.
Next door to San Lorenzo are the Pigneto and Torpignattara neighbourhoods, which are the most multicultural and innovative places in Rome, with cultural venues, galleries, creative studios, innovation spaces, fablabs, performance arts, music and more.

How can we use design not only to make products, services and technologies easy to use, sexy and beautiful, but also to open up critical discussion about the future?

Speculative Design is a series of different approaches and practices engaging with a social context. Design becomes a platform for expression to imagine possible futures, to speculate about how things could be.

Speculative designers gain better understandings of the evolution of our current scenarios, describing how the world could transform in the future by examining positive and negative implications of new technologies and the transformations of our societies and environment.

The results of these investigations are expressed by designing the possible objects, products, services, processes and behaviours of our future lives – of the people on the ground: neo-rurals, in this case –, in diegetic ways, which are able to include all our senses and, thus, immersing us and our fellow human beings into these possible future scenarios, triggering discussions and new alliances for the future.

In a society which is constantly mutating – under the pressure of technological disruption, political, environmental, economic transformations – speculative design can help people and organizations to build alternatives that are essential for the world of today and, more importantly, the world of tomorrow, revealing how design can serve as a catalyst for change.
SpeculativeEdu (Speculative Design – Educational Resource Toolkit) is an educational project funded by ERASMUS+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth, and sport, with the aim of strengthening speculative design education by collecting and exchanging existing knowledge and experience whilst developing new methods in the field of speculative design.

Its scope is to collect, exchange, reflect upon, develop, and advance educational practice in the area of speculative design and its self-critical approach.

The consortium is lead by Split University (Croatia), and consist of Edinburgh Napier University (UK), Goldsmiths, the University of London (UK), the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (Portugal), the private research center HER – Human Ecosystems Relazioni (Italy), and the Institute for Transmedia Design (Slovenia).

At the end of the project an academic book and a toolkit will be produced and published, to become a new open resource for students, academics, communities, professionals and organizations, to be used in educational and working contexts (such as universities, masters, arts and design schools, workshops, projects).

The summer school is positioned right in the middle of the research project: the study about the state of the arts is accomplished by the consortium, and it will be presented and used to shape the experience, discuss and receive feedbacks by participants about the different approaches emerged during the research.

Team SpeculativeEdu
Ivica Mitrović, Oleg Šuran, Bruna Paušić (Arts Academy Split, Croatia; leading organisation); Jimmy Loizeau, Matt Ward, Dash Macdonald (Goldsmith College, UK), Julian Hanna, James Auger (Madeira Interactive Technology Institute, Portugal); Ingi Helgason, Michael Smyth (Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland); Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico (Human Ecosystems Relazioni, Italy); Sara Božanić, Petra Bertalanič (Institute for Transmedia Design, Slovenia)

More about the team

More info about SpeculativeEdu

Workshop Leaders
Salvatore Iaconesi e Oriana Persico

A robotics engineer, hacker, interaction designer, TED Fellow, Eisenhower Fellow, and World Yale Fellow. A digital communication and inclusion expert and cyber-ecologist. The artistic duo Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico observes the mutations of human beings and societies due to the advent of ubiquitous networks and technologies. Between poetics and politics, bodies and architectures, squats and revolutionary business models, the couple promotes a vision of the world in which art is the glue that connects science, politics, and economics. They are the authors of global performances, publications, and works on exhibit all over the world. They teach and have teached courses such as Near Future, ‘Transmedia and Interaction Design in several universities such as ISIA School of Design in Florence, ‘La Sapienza’ University of Rome, RUFA – Rome University of Fine Arts and IED. They are the founders of the research center HER – Human Ecosystems Relazioni, based in Rome since 2016, and of the international network AOS – Art is Open Source, dedicated to the interconnections between art, science, and technology.

Alex Giordano
A pioneer of digital culture and innovation anthropologist, he is known as one of the major expert in Italy and internationally in contaminating social innovation and digital technologies. He teaches Marketing, Social Transformation and Social Innovation art the Department of Social Science of the University Federico II of Naples. He is interested in complexity, the infosphere and their relation with local communities, focusing on cultural interaction (small communities/migrants), intergenerational relations (old/young) and the dialogue center/periphery. He is leading the research/action programme Societing4.0 on social digital transformation intertwining different projects and actions, among them the RuralHack task force is working on ’open source hardware and DIY approaches on precision argricolture applied to the development of rural territories, internal areas and local communities. He is co-funder of, member of IADAS (Accademia Internazionale di Arti e Scienze) in New York, authors of books and scientific publication, such as: dMarketing Non Convenzionale (Sole24Ore, 2007) and Societing Reloaded (Egea, 2013). In 2018 he was appointed ambassador for the Mediterranean Diet in the world.

Federico Biggio, Daniele Bucci, Alessandra Del Nero, Arianna Forte, Valeria Loreti.

Storytellers & welcome
Herbert Natta e Maria Valese.

NeoRural Futures. Speculative design for rurality in global scenarios” is the summer school of the project Speculative Edu. The event supported by Human Ecosystems Relazioni (coordination), RUFA – Rome University of Fine Arts (academic partner), Rural Hack and Societing 4.0 (network and research partner).

SpeculativeEdu (Speculative Design – Educational Resource Toolkit) is funded by: Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. Project partner: University of Split (Croatia), Edinburgh Napier University (UK), Goldsmiths, the University of London (UK), Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (Portugal), Human Ecosystems Relazioni (Italy), Institute for Transmedia Design (Slovenia).