When a device reaches the limits of its storage, it typically sends a “Memory Full” warning that serves both as annoyance and incitement for action. Responses include upgrading the physical drive, relinquishing content to an immaterial “cloud,” editing and deleting, or constraining an otherwise unfettered desire to archive everything. Actions like these can be read as a metaphor for how histories of design are shaped. Against a background of multiple temporalities and ontologies for design, this conference sets out to explore the relationship between design and memory. It invites reflection on the entanglements embodied by design between futurity and amnesia, critical discussion on data cultures, and debate around emerging approaches to the designed environment.
How can the memory of design be interpreted, shared, mined, or performed? Stories of social change are recorded in artefacts buried under layers of water or soil, in the plot twists of old novels or vintage media. The legacy of human activity passes into the material culture of non-human species, or enters their very physiology. Practices involving design as means to construct, repair and speculate about the past are integral to processes of codifying both canonic and alternative histories. To what extent can history writing be compared to a design project? Assumptions and bias are embedded in the ways facts are gathered and constructed as habitable stories. How long do these narrations remain functional before they need to be patched with new data? Are machines also learning bias when they are instructed to collect data and present it in meaningful forms?
The conference welcomes historic, contemporary and interdisciplinary approaches to the topic and invites contributions from design historians, and students and scholars in related fields; as well as writers, practitioners, educators, museum professionals, and activists who engage with design history.
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