Nowadays, junk mail is pretty run-of-the-mill. You get a credit card application here, a request for a donation there — pretty mundane stuff, really. But what happens in a few years when the world’s a little bit different? What’s the future of junk mail?
The Extrapolation Factory, a New York-based studio run by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken, dedicated to imagining (and designing) possible futures, posed that very question to passersby at Storefront for Art and Architecture in SoHo last weekend. In fact, they offered canvases for people to feed their so-called “Junk Mail Machine” in order to answer the question.
The results were as hilarious as they were thought-provoking. OK, some were a little dark too, but they were still interesting!
The process was pretty simple. Visitors were given a worksheet of sorts that asked them to name a future need and then to suggest a hypothetical product or service that would satisfy that need. Finally, they designed a piece of junk mail that would advertise the resulting product or service. These were then fed into a slot on the wall — the “Junk Mail Machine.”
About 10 minutes later, the design returned as a fully finished piece of junk mail.
As the guys from the Extrapolation Factory explained in a press release, the finished junk mail is more than a piece of soon-to-be-discarded paper. “Though it’s rarely welcomed, junk mail hints at facets of today’s technological and cultural landscape,” the designers write. “Junk mail is a stream of invasive artefacts which we perceive to portray present-day services, products, and offers.”
You’d be surprised at what people came up with. Transportation was a big theme. One person, for instance, forecasted the need for “extra large self-driving cars” and proposed the Tubtub, a comfy car for lazy people. Another proposed a “hypersonic taxi by thought” service that they dubbed “Brainjets.”
There were also plenty of military-related designs, like an ambulance-chasing law firm that specialises in drone injuries, and at least a couple of solutions for lost limbs. (Told you some got dark.) There was even a design for “artisanal GMOs” that offered free samples.
It all sounds a little goofy, and it even looks a little goofy. But, like Montgomery and Woebken point out, you can learn a lot about society based on the crap that gets dumped on citizens’ doorsteps.
In the end, the Dream Machine participants all slipped their junk mail into a mailbox so that they could have the desired effect. But only time will tell whether we end up throwing away letters from drone lawyers or artisanal markers of GMOs in the not-too-distant future. People are at least already thinking about the idea.