Laura Allcorn

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Laura Allcorn; Artist & Founder of The Institute For Comedic Inquiry

Laura is an artist, humorist, and experience designer. She founded the Institute For Comedic Inquiry (IFCI), an artist-led research group that studies humor and its applications. At IFCI, she creates interactive objects and performances that point out absurdities through a technique she calls ‘Participatory Satire’. These works are based on her research and collaborations with scientists, and they share a common goal: using humor, science, art, design and performance as tools for publicly debating ideas. Her work focuses on how humor connects people to each other and lets us imagine possible futures. She has studied and performed all forms of comedy including satire writing, improvisation, sketch, and stand-up.

Laura earned an MFA in Applied Craft and Design at Pacific Northwest College of Art where she focused on speculative design. In 2017 she completed Center For Artistic Activism’s Art Action Academy at the Queens Museum.

Her work with IFCI has been shown around the world atScience Gallery (Dublin); CCCB (Barcelona); ArtScience Museum (Singapore); Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Rome);Design Week Portland, Risk/Reward Pavement Festival(Portland); Bridgetown Comedy Festival; Portland Fashion Week; and featured in Wired UK, The Guardian, GOOD, Dwell, and Design Bureau Magazine.

She also has over 12 years of experience designing award- winning interactive installations and exhibitions for museums and brands that push the boundaries of storytelling, design and technology. She spent six years at Second Story Interactive Studios, most recently as an Associate Creative Director, where she worked with: California State Parks, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Thomas Cole Historic Site, Harvard Business School,Target, Nokia, and others.


2022 Gait Augmentation Seminar: An Exercise in Things Taken Too Far

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to actively participate in a Black Mirror episode, and dreamt of staging your own Participatory Satire as a radical approach to speculative design, this is the event for you. Step into 2022: Gait Augmentation Seminar.

This experimental session is equal parts participatory performance and workshop. Attendees will be invited to participate in a Gait Augmentation Seminar—a ‘Participatory Satire’ about privacy and disguising your walk. Participatory Satire is a tactic for collaborative speculation that invites people to live in futures taken too far by technological or scientific advancements. After we’ve lived in this absurd future, we’ll discuss tactics, examples and experiment with tools for staging your own Participatory Satire.

This approach borrows from the fields of speculative design, artistic activism, satire, and immersive theatre. Traditionally, many speculative design proposals manifest as objects or videos. They are useful in conjuring contemplative questions like “What is that for?” or “Why would that exist?” Laura's hypothesis is that participatory role-play can encourage participants to briefly live in a speculative reality. This encourages empathy muscles to fire, prompting questions like “How would I behave?” and “Why did I just make that choice?” This tactic can be useful in generating diverse viewpoints. Applying humor and specifically satire, the comedy of outrage, allows us to break down the mental barriers we hold and use our imaginations to new effect. We’ll discuss how this type of participatory experiment elicits different responses than say encountering a speculative design object in a gallery or watching a film.

Key Workshop Takeaways

  • Experience a Participatory Satire

  • Learn a new tactic for creating speculative futures that incite dialogue, encourage empathic responses, and conjure diverse viewpoints

  • Gain an understanding of best practices in satire and participatory engagement for future scenario building