VVAA – TBD Catalog Volume 9 Issue 24


Near Future Laboratory, ISBN-13: 978-0990563303, English, 112 pages, 2014, USA

The Whole Earth Catalog was a revolutionary publication, conceived by Stewart Brand and published irregularly from 1968 to 1998. With the slogan “access to tools,” it listed and reviewed a wide range of products that provided opportunities for individuals to embrace DIY culture. Now almost fifty years later the Near Future Laboratory has published a new catalogue entitled “TBD Catalog Volume 9 Issue 24”. It’s described by the authors as “design fiction,” and it is a genre-defining publication. Although technically a “catalogue” it only lists imaginary products, together with imaginary ads, and even imaginary classifieds. A luxurious “fake,” then, developed by a team of twenty people (designers, science fiction and science writers/students and curators), all coordinated by Julian Bleecker. A very consistent methodology has been applied (they even developed an internal “Design Fiction Product Design Work Kit”), to distort the present into a near future in which the so-called “internet of things” has become the norm. In the collection of “products” software plays a fundamental role, both implicitly and explicitly (while marginal aesthetics like glitch are completely embedded in its mainstream). The compendium of generated ideas is simply terrific, and it has a primary value: the publication deeply questions the current flattening of our collective imaginary about the future through unsettling innovation.