Cyberpunk and Design Fiction – A way to explore imagined technologies.

As I am aiming to create a virtual storefront for imagined objects within Cyberpunk texts, it’s important to have a clear definition of the Cybercultural elements I will be looking to explore in depth.

Firstly and most importantly, I must define what a Cyberpunk text is.


While rather lengthy I feel Erich Schneider perfectly explains Cyberpunk:

 “Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural ‘systems’. In cyberpunk stories’ settings, there is usually a ‘system’ which dominates the lives of most ‘ordinary’ people, be it an oppressive government, a group of large, paternalistic corporations, or a fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies (today advancing at a rate that is bewildering to most people), particularly ‘information technology’ (computers, the mass media), making the system better at keeping those within it inside it. Often this technological system extends into its human ‘components’ as well, via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans themselves become part of ‘the Machine’. This is the ‘cyber’ aspect of cyberpunk. However, in any cultural system, there are always those who live on its margins, on ‘the Edge’: criminals, outcasts, visionaries, or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the system’s technological tools to their own ends. This is the ‘punk’ aspect of cyberpunk.”


Cyberpunk is known as ‘Hard Science Fiction’, due to the strong reliance on science and technology. Cyberpunk breaks down the separation between the organic and the artificial, or, between the human and the machine. They often focus on how technology has resulted in a dystopian society.


Jon Turney discusses the influence of Science Fiction on the trajectory of technological development in his paper ‘Imagining technology’ (2013). This piece of work is fundamental to my research, at least in these early stages. Turney (2013 p. 8) states that Science Fiction “is an important arena for imagining the effects of technologies, existing and yet to come. Its imagined worlds are ones in which life is enabled or constrained by technologies in ways we have not yet seen in our world. Whether we do see them realised may then be influenced by the role technologies play in these alternate realities.” Therefore, Cyberpunk is a cultural response used for exploring technologies that have led to, or that are within, the previously mentioned dystopian society.

This brings me to the technological objects within these texts, specifically, the ones I will be analysing. What makes an object Cyberpunk technology?

The ‘Novum’:

Turney explains a key feature in Science Fiction texts. Most stories have a ‘novum’ – “a feature which defines a key difference between the reader’s everyday world and the world being portrayed” (Turney 2013 p. 7). The novum is usually technological, the most common tropes of science fiction texts are that of tools and machines , such as computers, virtual reality, robots and spaceships.
It is therefore important that my imagined objects or, ‘novum’s’, explore the implications of technology on the world.


Hence, Cyberpunk is a literary genre used to explore the relationship between organic humans and artificial technologies and the resulting effects on the world.

It is these technologies that I will be pulling out of their texts and exploring their historical, societal and contextual backgrounds.

Design Fiction:

Whilst not exactly Cyberpunk, or even Science Fiction, Design Fiction may still be of value to my project. Design Fiction is an interesting attempt to explore technological possibilities of the near future. Void of the drama and stories of Science Fiction literature, Design fiction is generally a conversational piece that conveys “the kinds of experiences that might surround the designed object” (Turney 2013 p. 41). Design Fiction is the result of our knowledge of how stories influence cultural mentalities towards new technologies. As Turney (2013 p. 43) puts it, “The story we are telling ourselves about the relation between imagination and technology is changing, and so the way we try and tell stories about technology is changing, too.” Design fiction could be seen as a new way for promoting technological advancements and discussion of possible futures.

Design Fiction projects


  1. Turney, J 2013, ‘Imagining technology’, Nesta Working Paper, No, 13/06, viewed 5 April 2016, <;


3 thoughts on “Cyberpunk and Design Fiction – A way to explore imagined technologies.”

  1. A really cool exploration and something I haven’t actually seen anybody take on, that is, technologies that haven’t actually been created or made commercially available. I think in conjunction with your exploration, I already see how this can be managed for future products available at the university. I will also be following this particular project as I love getting inspiration that can branch out into new and unthought-of devices. I think your point on how film has had an influence on cyberpunk today. The idea that we can watch films from the 90s even early 2000’s that make incredible links to technologies (particularly wearable) that are off the shelf now. Upon reading your post, I looked at how human-machine convergence has changed during and post cyberpunk era. It takes movies and cultural fads that came with some of the influences you discussed! I think that it would be helpful in your exploration, a video piece ( by Steve Anderson. There is also a Cyberpunk database that links popular medias together under the same collective of Cyberpunk that could help with various sub-cultures you would be interested in! ( Lastly, the inclusion of the design fiction projects you included at the end look incredible and look forward to if you unpack some of these!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cyberpunk has got to be my new favourite genre. Cyberpunk in general always been around just never given the attention it deserves either due to poor adaption (see johnny Mnemonic) or just classified as sci fi, but the common theme as you said each one tends to have that one piece of technology we all want whether it be a hoverboard or some form of VR or AR. This novum idea would be harder to come by in the modern market. To have a piece of technology that would completely bewilder us, most things that we see in sci-fi while being far fetched aren’t completely out of the realm of possibilities and are usually just a more developed idea of something we already have.

    A place you could use to look for inspiration or ideas would be video games, I know that Dues Ex: Human Revolution is pretty cyberpunk and deals a lot with body modification. (

    Liked by 1 person

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