Design Engineering
Showcase

Counter Culture

Student
Finn Strivens
Course
Global Innovation Design
Supervisor
Dr Stephen Green
Theme
Breaking Barriers

Scientific and technological developments shape the future. How can members of the public shape the directions of scientists and have a say in their future?

Counter Culture is a workshop, experience, and accompanying tools, to enable members of the public to imagine unconsidered implications of lab-grown meat and expand the boundaries of scientific thinking. Participants dined at a future Brooklyn restaurant serving ‘lab-grown’ meat. Communicating science through contextual experiences allowed diners to immediately imagine new futures.

Diners then imagined their own future restaurants. In one restaurant diners bring their own blood serum to grown their meat, and the quality of the meat is affected by their own diet. Another restaurant played on the tantalising narratives of the meat marketing in a world where ‘natural’ meat had been made illegal.

Restaurants were transformed into speculative websites to widely share the diner’s contributions to the field of lab-grown meat.

 — Counter Culture
Culinary experiments to make believable lab-grown meat.

Process

The project was conducted in collaboration with Genspace, a community biolab in New York, and New Harvest, an organisation funding research into lab-grown meat. The experience and workshop were informed by interviews with New Harvest research fellows about their research. I designed and cooked a 4-course future tasting menu for 50 people and trained 15-17 year old students to act in the experiential scenario and facilitate the workshop. The workshop itself was iteratively prototyped and used prompts about the future created by David Benque.

Outcomes

Many diners believed they were eating lab-grown meat, prompting diverse, exaggerated, and feeling level reactions to the science. These emotions informed the scenarios they imagined, providing a deep understanding of their perceptions of lab-grown meat. The workshop produced diverse and thought-provoking images of the future and the participants were engaged throughoutThe workshop format continues to be used by the Research Director of New Harvest in public events and with university students.The success of the structure indicates a potential for adaptation to other scientific topics, starting with an experience of expected futures before a workshop to imagine alternatives. The format works best with applied sciences or researchers exploring new technologies.“Finn’s session was able to facilitate genuinely novel conversations and imaginings about cultured meat. The game prompted me to think about the social and economic dimensions of cultured meat that I had never thought about before.” Meera Zassenhaus, New Harvest Engagement Associate

Speculative websites can be found here and here.

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