Professor, Northeastern University
Laura Forlano, a Fulbright award-winning and National Science Foundation-funded scholar, is a writer, social scientist, design researcher, and adjunct faculty member at the Institute of Design. Laura’s research is focused on aesthetics and politics at the intersection of design and emerging technologies. Over the past ten years, she has studied the materialities and futures of socio-technical systems, such as autonomous vehicles and smart cities; 3D printing, local manufacturing, and innovation ecosystems; automation, distributed labor practices, and the future of work; and computational fashion, smart textiles, and wearable medical technologies.
Laura received a bachelor of arts degree in Asian Studies from Skidmore College and a master of international affairs degree from Columbia University. She also received a PhD in communications from Columbia University.
Activities at ID
Laura has developed and taught courses at ID including Designing Futures and Principles and Methods of User Research as well as teaching in the PhD program in Design. Among her fellowships, in Spring 2020, she is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) at Durham University (UK), working on a project called “Material Imagination.” In 2018–19, Laura was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech and a Faculty Associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
As Director of the Critical Futures Lab (2014–2023), Laura brings together creative thinking and critical making by using prototypes, experiments, and explorations to engage with complex socio-technical questions about the nature of living with emerging technologies. These varied and multidisciplinary activities—informed by science and technology studies, media studies and communications—intend to bring together diverse viewpoints to raise vital questions and alternative possible futures. In particular, the Lab is concerned with the ways in which the digital is materialized, contextualized, and embodied across a variety of scales, from city infrastructures to the built environment, and from interactive objects to digital bodies.
Speaking and Publishing
Laura has edited three books: Bauhaus Futures (MIT Press 2019), digitalSTS (Princeton University Press 2019) and From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen (MIT Press 2011). Her work has appeared in many peer-reviewed journals, including the International Journal of Communication, Catalyst, Design Issues, Journal of Peer Production, The Fibreculture Journal, Digital Culture & Society, Journal of Urban Technology, and The Journal of Community Informatics, among others.
Forlano, Laura. 2019. “Stabilizing/Destabilizing the Driverless City: Speculative Futures and Autonomous Vehicles.” International Journal of Communication, 13.
Forlano, Laura, and Stephanie Smith. 2018. “Critique as Collaboration in Design Anthropology.” Journal of Business Anthropology 7 (2).
Forlano, Laura. 2017. “Data Rituals in Intimate Infrastructures: Crip Time and the Disabled Cyborg Body as an Epistemic Site of Feminist Science.” 2017. Catalyst. Special issue on Science Out of Feminist Theory Part 2: Remaking Science(s) 3 (2): 1–28.
Forlano, Laura. 2017. “Posthumanism and Design.” She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation. Special issue on Transforming Design Matters 3 (1): 16–29.
Forlano, Laura. 2016. “Decentering the Human in the Design of Collaborative Cities.” Design Issues 32 (3).
Forlano, Laura. 2016. “Hacking the Feminist Disabled Body.” Journal of Peer Production. Special issue on Feminist (Un)Hacking 24 (3): 4–18.
Forlano, Laura, and M. Halpern. 2016. “Reimagining Work: Entanglements and Frictions around Future of Work Narratives.” The Fibreculture Journal 26. Special issue on Entanglements: Activism and Technology, FCJ-129.
Forlano, Laura, Molly Wright Steenson, and Mike Annany, eds. 2019. Bauhaus Futures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Vertesi, Janet, David Ribes, Carl DiSalvo, Laura Forlano, Steven Jackson, Yanni Loukissas, Daniela Rosner, and Hanna Rose Shell, eds. 2019. digitalSTS: A Field Guide for Science & Technology Studies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Foth, Marcus, Laura Forlano, Martin Gibbs, and Christine Satchell, eds. 2011. From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Featured WorkSee all
VICE cites Laura Forlano’s 2020 paper; “Participation Is Not a Design Fix for Machine Learning”
How ‘AI Isn’t Artificial or Intelligent’
Laura Forlano on Futuring
At Public Books, a discussion on how to future and the business of futuring
The ID Community on the Future of Work
At events at home and abroad, ID faculty and students present perspectives on how our workplaces are changing
Designing Futures: Biodesign Challenge
How are futures imagined, performed and made durable over time?
Drawing on communication design practice, the class visualized and embodied key theoretical concepts into a physical toolkit that can be recalled and used during the prototyping process.