Auger James

Researcher-Lecturer HdR.

Designer (speculative, critical and reconstrained design)


Research interests

Speculative Design could be described as a practise consisting of extrapolating the potential of an emergent technology, in order to produce hypotheses regarding products and the imaginaries they bear. This approach is also a means of questioning contemporary configurations of technological artefacts (and their systems) by the creation of alternative ones. 

The principal advantage of speculative design resides in the dissociation it permits between practise and market imperatives, which constrain and orient design in a (commercial) dominant direction.
In placing itself outside of this system, design may adopt a different role than that perfected in the course of the 20th century: in not ceding to well-anchored notions of progress, of the manipulation of desire, and ostentatious consumption, etc., design may provide solutions better adapted to the world of the 21st century, in adjusting methods of design to the complex problems which we are confronted with today. 
This pursuit involves a better understanding of cultural, societal, political, technological and (above all) natural systems, within which the practise of design operates, but also of the way in which objects thought up function. Only this better understanding of systems and objects allows for their putting into question, or their optimisation.

At present, there are three fundamental approaches, drawing from Charles Eames (1972)’s description of design — “a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose”:

  1. To lay out emergent technology (not yet available) in order to produce hypotheses regarding products or future objects, or, 
  2. To apply alternative plans, motivations or ideologies to those already at the origins of current technological  development so as to facilitate new arrangements of existing elements, and
  3. To develop new perspectives on big systems : wide speculations which, even if technologically plausible, would be almost impossible to implement due to infrastructure constraints.

In order to :

  1. Ask what a better future or present (*) could be; what should be aimed toward.
  2. Understand the potential implications of a specific (disruptive) technology in different contexts and on multiple levels before it enters everyday life; what to avoid.
  3. To move design 'upstream' - not to settle for packaging technology at the end of the technology journey, but to influence that journey from its genesis; how and where to act.

(*The answer to this question presents one of the the biggest issues — better for who? for what? The question highlights the inherent conflicts that it brings up: economy against environment; shareholders against society


James Auger is researcher-lecturer at the École normale supérieure (ENS Paris-Saclay). His work explores the routes by which research in design, centred around practice, may engender better anticipated and more democratic futures.

Having completed a Masters degree in Design Products (MA) at the Royal College of Art in London, James conducted research for the Media Lab Europe of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). in Dublin exploring the theme of human communication through technology.

Invited to Tokyo as designer for Issey Miyake Design Studio, he worked on developing new concepts for mobile phones. 
Between 2005 and 2015, James joined the acclaimed Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art, where he taught a Masters degree while developing his research into critical and speculative design approaches, the subject of his 2012 thesis.

In 2015, James founded Reconstrained Design Group at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI, Portugal), exploring the potential of the Island as living laboratory. There he experimented with projects that mixed fiction and reality, around the theme of ‘energy’, at multi-functional levels. These projects received the Cultural Innovation International Prize from the Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona (CCCB) in 2017.

In addition to his academic research, James is cofounder and associate of the cabinet of speculative design Auger-Loizeau, established in 2000. Their projects have been published and shown worldwide, notably at MoMA (NYC), Gallery 21_21 (Tokyo), at the Science Museum (London), the National Museum of China (Beijing) and at Ars Electronica (Linz).

  • Cultural Innovation International Prize, CCCB Gallery, Barcelona, Spain, 2017.
  • SHAPE Energy Research Design Challenge, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, 2017
  • Transmediale 10 (shortlisted), Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots (Auger-Loizeau), Transmediale, Berlin, Germany, 2010.
  • Special Mention, Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots (Auger-Loizeau), VIDA 11 Art and Artificial Life Awards, 2009.
  • Honourable Mention, Interactive Art, Iso-phone (Auger-Loizeau), Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, 2004.
  • Köln Klopfer (Cologne Thumper), Designer of the Year 2002, Köln Institute of Design (KISD), Germany, 2002. 

Thesis supervision

• Doctoral candidate : Mark Basinger
Thesis title : Projecting UltraDuration : Sublimation & the Hypothetical Object
Thesis supervisor : Laurene Vaughan (RMIT)
Co-supervisors : James Auger & Cameron Tonkinwise 
Viva: november 2020

• Doctoral candidate : Gill Wildman
Thesis title : Strategic Design
Thesis supervisor : Laurene Vaughan (RMIT)
Co-supervisors : James Auger & Cameron Tonkinwise
Viva: april 2021

• Doctoral candidate : Mohammed Ali
Thesis title : Reconstraining Infrastructures.
Thesis supervisor : James Auger
Co-supervisors : Laurene Vaughan & Cameron Tonkinwise
Viva: november 2021

• Doctoral candidate : Estelle Hary
Thesis title : Living with algorithms, a speculative design exploration on weaving new relational paradigms with our technological ecosystems.
Thesis supervisor : James Auger
Co-supervisors : Liam Fennessy
Thesis started in november 2019

• Doctoral candidate : Gauthier Rossihle
Thesis title : Design as negotiation of a limited and sustainable world : how to negotiate everyday life on a damaged world with limited energy, resources and investment.
Thesis supervisor : James Auger
Co-supervisors : Liam Fennessy
Thesis started in november 2019

• Doctoral candidate : Olivier Troff
Thesis title : Regarder la complexité : dispositifs de vision du paysage en design
Thesis supervisor : James Auger, ENS Paris-Saclay, ED SSH n°629 de l’Université Paris-Saclay
Co-supervisors : Anne Lefebvre (50% of co-supervision) 
Funding : CDSN – contrat doctoral spécifique normalien
Enrolled in programme : september 2020. 

Responsabilities, juries
  • iF Design talent award 2019, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009 et 2008.
  • Core 77 design award 2011 – Speculative concepts/objects.




Design projects
  • The Newton Machine, Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute. Project funded by INTERREG-MAC - 2016-2019. Voir le projet


  • (Re)design Death, Cube Design Museum, February 2020, Kerkrade, Holland.
  • DA Fest,  International Digital Art Festival, october 2019, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • Design by Time, Pratt Manhattan Gallery, February 2019, New-York, USA.
  • The Newton Machine, CCCB Gallery, January 2018, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Die, and become ! Art and Science as Conjectured Possible, Art + Science Meeting Project, november 2016, Gdansk, Poland.
  • Body Exhibition, Pokoyhof Passage, September 2016, Wroclaw, Poland.
  • Open Fields, RIXC Art Science Festival, September 2016, Latvia, Riga.
  • Twelve Tall Tales, Crafts Council, July 2016, London, UK.
  • Life fair exhibition, Het Nieuwe Institute, June 2016, Rotterdam, Holland.
  • Safe and Sound, MUDAC, March 2016, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Human + The Future of our Species, october 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Objects of Wonder, Beall Centre, october 2015, Irvine (Cal.), USA.
  • Crafting Narrative, Crafts Council UK, September 2014, London, UK.
  • 24 heures dans la vie d'un coucou suisse, Musée des Arts et Métiers, May 2014, Paris, France.
  • Obsessive Sensing, LEAP, April 2014, Berlin, Germany.
  • Festival Bom, March 2014, Seoul, Korea.
  • Lightopia, Vitra, september 2013, Weil am Rhein, Germany.
  • Science Art 3, September 2013, Moscow, Russia.
  • Sex and Design, Décember 2012, Milan, Italy.
  • Soft Control, November 2012, Maribor, Slovenia.
  • Sublime Gadgets, November 2012, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • New Energy in Art and Design, Van Boijmans, October 2011, Rotterdam, Holland.
  • Hello Worlds, ISMAR 2011, october 2011, Bâle, Switzerland.
  • What If ? National Museum of China, September 2011, Peking, China.
  • Talk to me, MoMA, July 2011, New-York, USA.
  • Transnatural Exhibition and Symposium, March 2011, Amsterdam, Holland.
  • Biennale du Design de Saint-Etienne, november 2010, Saint-Étienne, France.
  • Freak show exhibition, Helmrinderknecht, november 2010, Berlin, Germany.
  • Lift 10 exhibition, May 2010, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Impact exhibition, March 2010, London, UK.
  • Action ! Design over time, MoMa, February 2010, New-York, USA.
  • What happens if…?, February 2010, Lancaster,UK.
  • Transmediale exhibition, February 2010, Berlin, Germany.
  • What If ?, Science Gallery, Trinity College, october 2009, Dublin, Irland.
  • Experimenta Design 09, september 2009, Lisbone, Portugal.
  • Freeze ! 2009, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, July 2009, Taichung, Taiwan.
  • Touch Me, conférence et exposition, décember 2008, Zagreb, Croatia.
  • Nowhere/Now/Here, Laboral, october 2008, Gijon, Spain.
  • Crossing Over, Royal Institution, september 2008, London, UK.
  • Design and the Elastic Mind, MoMa, February 2008, New-York, USA.
  • 21_21 Design Sight, January 2008, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Philips Design exhibition, June 2007, Eindhoven, Holland.
  • Design Mai, May 2007, Berlin, Germany.
  • The Science of Spying, Science Museum, February 2007, London, UK.
  • The 2nd Art and Science International Symposium, november 2006, Peking, China.
  • Bêtes de style, MUDAC, september 2006, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • ISEA exhibition, August 2006, San Jose, USA.
  • Open Borders, Curated by Droog Design, October 2004, Lille, France.
  • Ars Electronica, september 2004, Linz, Austria.
  • eCulture fair, Melkweg, october 2003, Amsterdam, Holland.

Research Programmes

• 2015 - 2019 : Principal Investigator (PI) and founder of the Reconstrained Design Group at Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute. Supervision of projects, writing of European bids, institutional strategy for the design aspect. Funding: Erasmus+, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), CCCB Cultural Innovation International Prize 2017 and INTERREG - Scenarios for Transformative Energy Alternatives in Macaronesia.

• 2006 - 2008 : Research fellow for Philips Design (at the RCA). Collaboration with Philips design Probes team to develop research on sense of smell.

• 2005 - 2015 : Various projects engaging with the public around sciences within the cabinet Auger-Loizeau, including collaborations with the University of Edinburgh, Aberystwyth University, University of Bristol, EPSRC, NESTA et the Science Museum, London.

• 2005 : Guest designer, Issey Miyake Design Studio (Tokyo, Japan) : applied research toward designing a new form of mobile phone.

• 2002 - 2005 : Research associate at Media Lab Europe :  designing projects around the theme: “the future of human communication as mediated by technology », definitions of new research directions, project management and regular media interventions.



International peer reviewed journals

  • AUGER, James & HANNA, Julian, The Possibility of Atopia: An Unmanifesto. In M. Agron, T. Covelli, A.Kandel & D. Langdon (Eds.), Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal, 2022, vol. 54, pp. 7-22. +
  • AUGER, James, Seven Observations, or Why Domestic Robots are Struggling to Enter the Habitats of Everyday Life. In J. Dörrenbächer, R. Ringfort-Felner, R. Neuhaus & M. Hassenzahl (Eds.) Meaningful Futures with Robots - About the Design of a New Coexistence with Machines, Taylor&Francis, 2022. +
  • AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian, La pièce la plus petite. In E. Quinz (Ed.) Le Comportement des Choses, pp. 274-281, les presses du réel, 2021. +
  • AUGER, J., HANNA, J., ASHBY, S., & MATOS, S., Common World. In E. Staszowski & V.Tassinari (Eds.) Designing in Dark Times : An Arendtian Lexicon, pp. 85-89. Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021. +
  • WILLIS, M., ADAMO, G., HANNA, J., & AUGER, J., Towards Sustainable Island Futures: Design for Ocean Wave Energy. In Journal of Futures Studies, vol. 25(4) pp. 31-44, 2021. +
  • AUGER, James, Beyond human-centered design In K. Kawasaki (Ed.) SPECULATIONS – 2019, pp.197-202. BNN Inc (Japan).
  • AUGER, James & HANNA, Julian, How the Future Happens in Design and Futures : Special Issue of Journal of Futures Studies, Vol.23, N°3, march 2019, edited by Stuart Candy and Cher Potter.
  • AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian & WATTS, Laura, The Newton Machine : Reconstrained design for energy infrastructure in Shape Energy Research Design challenge : Control, change and capacity – building in energy systems, Cambridge : SHAPE ENERGY 2018, edited by Patrick Sumpf and Christian Buscher.
  • AUGER, James, How heart attacks could be a thing of the past : Reading and valuing speculative design, in Kunstlicht Vol.35, N°3/4, Speculari, 2014, edited by Rana Ghavami & Ragna Manz.
  • AUGER, James, Speculative design : crafting the speculation, in Digital Creativity, Vol.24, N°1, 2013: Design fictions, pp.11-35, edited by Derek Hales.
  • AUGER, James, Living with Robots : a speculative design approach, in Journal of Human-Robot Interaction, Vol.3, N°1, pp. 20-42, February 2014.
  • AUGER, James, Alternative Presents and Speculative Futures : Designing fictions through the extrapolation and evasion of product lineages, In Swiss Design Network conference : Negotiating futures – Design Fiction, Vol.6. pp. 42-57. ISSN 978-3-9523662-1-9.

International conferences with published proceedings

  • AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian, Alternative Timelines: Counterfactuals as an Approach to Design Pedagogy. Anticipation 22: 4th International Conference on Anticipation, Tempe, Arizona, USA, 2022. +
  • HELGASON, Ingi, AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian & MITROVIC, Ivica, Speculative Design in Education : Mapping the Landscape, DESIGN CULTURE(S) | Cumulus 2020 Conference, Sapienza Universita di Roma, Roma, 16-19 Juin. Proceedings forthcoming June 2020.
  • AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian & ENCINAS, Enrique, Reconstrained Design : Confronting Oblique Design Constraints Controls, Conference Nordes – Nordic Design Society, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, 2-4 June 2017. Nordes digital Archive : ISSN-number 1604-9705.
  • AUGER, James, HANNA, Julian & ENCINAS, Enrique, Wait for the Drop : Designing a Gravity Powered Turntable of the Future, xCoAx : 5th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetic & X, Lisbon, Portugal, July 2017. Proceedings edited by Luisa Ribas, André Rangel, Mario Verdicchio & Miguel Carvalhais : ISBN: 978-989-746-128-6, 389 p.
  • HANNA, Julian, AUGER, James & ENCINAS, Enrique, Reconstrained Design : a Manifesto, DIS (Designing Interactive Systems), Edinburgh, UK, June 2017. Proceedings general chair – Oli Mival, ISBN: 978-1-4503-4922-2.
  • AUGER, James, TAYLOR, Alex & SWAN, Laurel, Speculative design by practice : a robot case study, EASST Conference (European Association for the study of Science and Technology) : Practicing Science and Technology, Performing the Social, Trento, Italy, September 2010. Convened by Carl DiSalvo, Tobie Kerridge and Alex Wilkie.
  • ZIVANOVIC, Aleksandar, AUGER, James & LOIZEAU, Jimmy, Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots, TEI'09 (Tangible and Embedded Interaction): Pages 127–130, conference chair – Nicolas Villar, ISBN: 978-1-60558-493-5. February 2009.

International conferences without proceedings

  • ALI, Mohammed, AUGER, James & ENCINAS, Enrique, Illuminating Infrastructure, Economia Renewable Futures conference, Eindhoven, Netherlands, April 2017.
  • AUGER, James & HANNA, Julian, Promise in the Periphery : Designing bespoke energy for Madeira, REMOTE : Rethinking Remoteness and Peripherality, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norvège, January 2017.
  • AUGER, James & HANNA, Julian, The Possibilities of an Island : redesigning Madeira, Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos, University of Hong-Kong, March 2016.




  • Post-petroleum Utopias, Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT), University of Chicago, Chicago, USA, May 2019.
  • Ethics by Design, colloque organisé par Karl Pineau et Jérémie Poiroux, Maison des sciences de l'homme Paris-Nord, Paris, France, october 2018.
  • Mixit conference, Manufacture des Tabacs, Lyon, France, April 2018.
  • BWxD conference (Better World by Design), Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA, september 2017.
  • Interakcije 2016 : Speculative NOW! University of Split, Croatia, october 2016
  • PLUNC 2016 - Festival de Artes Digitais e Novos Media, Lisbone, Portugal, september 2016.
  • Sense of Smell Congress, AVANS University of Applied science, Breda, Holland, décember 2014.
  • City | Data | Future, University of Split, Croatia, July 2014.
  • LARSyS (Laboratory of Robotics and Engineering systems), Lisbone, Portugal, July 2013.
  • XX International Design Symposium, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Facultad de Arquitectura, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2012.
  • Robots that care, Kolding, Dannemark, September 2011.
  • Making Future Design, Derby, UK, June 2011.
  • Swiss Design Network Conference, Negotiating Futures: Design Fiction, Bale, Switzerland, october 2010.
  • DAP Conference (Devices that Alter Perception), Séoul, Korea, october 2010.

General presentations,

  • Future Friends conference (co-organiser), Maribor, Slovenia, april 2019.
  • Dzing Dzing: Design research in Art School, 11th Biennale Internationale Design, Saint-Etienne, France, April 2019.
  • Research Through Design conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, March 2017.
  • Interaction 17, IXDA – Interaction Design Association, Session: Complexity and User Experience, New-York, USA, February 2017.
  • The Man of Anthropocene, Wroclaw Research Centre EIT, Poland, october 2016.
  • Resonate, Annual festival for art and digital culture, Belgrade, Serbia, April 2016.
  • Domestic Futures, Stockholm, Sweden, november 2015.
  • KIKK festival, Namur, Belgium, november, 2014.

General presentations (continued),

  • Humanising the Robot Society – NESTA, London, UK, June 2014.
  • Design Research Society 2014, Umea, Sweden, June 2014.
  • DEAF Biennale: The Progress Trap, Rotterdam, Holland, May 2014.
  • Retune13 Creative technology conference, Berlin, Germany, september 2013.
  • Science Art 3: Art Science and the technological unconscious, Moscow, Russia, september 2013.
  • Resonate, annual festival for art and digital culture, Belgrade, Serbia, March 2013.
  • Soft Control, Maribor, Slovenia, november 2012.
  • Action Research, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, november 2012.
  • Le beau, l'utile, le nécessaire, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium, october 2012.
  • Provoke Design Informatics Forum 2012, Japan Institute of Design Promotion, Tokyo, Japan, May 2012.
  • Robot Speak, Science Museum, London, UK, december 2011.
  • Koln International Summit on Design, Cologne, Germany, May 2011.
  • Robolift, Lyon, France, March 2011.
  • British Council 5 city speaking tour, India, January 2011.
  • Critical minds : critical spaces, conference, UCL, London, UK, May 2010.
  • Aftertaste 3, Parsons New School, New-York, USA, April 2009.
  • Lift conference, Geneva, Switzerland, February 2009.
  • Smart Space Conference, Arhus, Denmark, December 2008.
  • V&A Thinktank: The Future Object, London,UK, September 2008.
  • Parsons Make research symposium, New-York, USA, October 2007.
  • Common Sense conference, Cologne, Germany, June 2007.
  • St. Moritz Design Summit, St. Moritz, Switzerland, December 2005.
  • DESIGNMAI symposium, Berlin, Germany, May 2005.
  • St Moritz Design Summit, St. Moritz, Switzerland, December 2004.
  • Mobile Futures Symposium, Brême, Germany, December 2004.
  • St Moritz Design Summit, St. Moritz, Switzerland, December 2003.
  • Viper Festival 2003, Bâle, Switzerland, November 2003.
  • Experimenta 2003, Lisbone, Portugal, October 2003.
Sites & links