Judith Muehlenhoff

Judith Mühlenhoff

Design Fiction: Beyond flying cars and robots taking over

Using design and sociology to shape the futures of socially-responsible AI

How did you imagine the future when you were a child? How come you had these images from the future? And what has become true?

Design Fiction and Speculative Futures have acknowledged that there is not one future to prepare for. Instead — given our increasingly complex world — there are many possible futures and it is up to us to shape them. We should not be limited by the cliché of a future movies and other media constantly retelling.

Design Fiction is an approach to help us imagining the futures and discussing which one is the most preferable for us. This is mainly done by making our future visions tangible through designing objects or acting. Often, this seems like a guerrilla way towards futures thinking, questioning our hypothesis about what will be next. Black Mirror has been labelled as a prime example for design fiction. Also speculative designers have created, for example, an Ikea catalogue of a future with smart home or items for your future 99 ct store (or is it 0.000099 Bitcoin then?). 

How might we use design fiction for shaping the futures of socially-responsible AI? How can sociology contribute to this?


Judith Mühlenhoff studied Sociology, Cultural Studies and Communication Studies at Free University Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Glasgow. She obtained a Ph.D. in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of Potsdam. Judith worked for a trend agency and at the research and innovation division of the Deutsche Telekom. She is specialized in early product and service discovery, often conducting qualitative and generative user research. After two years at the Centre for Digital Cultures/Leuphana University, she left with the spin-off “User Research Lab”, an international project that concentrates on media usage needs in the context of news, partnering with the World Service at BBC News. Lastly, she worked as a Strategic Designer for service and business innovation at Volkswagen Group Services. Now, Judith is a freelancer and one of the organizers of ResearchOps Berlin Meetup.

Read our interview with Judith.