2021 DHS Annual Conference -> «Date: 2-4 September 2021»

Memory full? Reimagining the relations between design and history

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.

Join the conversation using #DHS2021

Meret Ernst, Convener
Monica Gaspar, Co-Convener
Claudia Mareis, Gabriele Oropallo, Michael Renner, Convenor Team

We go Fully digital

For the first time, we will host the DHS Annual Conference online. Our twofold objective is to reduce the environmental impact of short-term intercontinental travel and enable colleagues from any geography to participate in the conference regardless of distance or available travel funding. The CfP looks forward to (re-)activating dialogue and scientific exchange and encourages to test engaging formats of the remote attendance. Join the challenge of experiencing the first virtual DHS annual conference in a convivial, inspiring, and rewarding way.

Submissions’ deadline until 1st of March.

Submit your proposal now

We are back

One of the core questions of the Call for Papers when it was originally published in late 2019 was “How can the memory of design be interpreted, shared, mined or performed?”. Despite the enthusiastic response to the call, with over 250 applications received, the conference was postponed and rethought in the wake of the 2020 pandemic outbreak and the attendant rapid reconfiguration of social space. The question gained a renewed urgency in the light of the global wave of indignation that followed the latest string of deaths at the hands of law enforcement in the United States, and the subsequent calls for action to unearth, understand, and disarm the deep histories of violently and colonially acquired hegemony.

The convenor team acknowledges that the events of 2020 had a palpable impact on the academic landscape and expedited the need to address issues that require vigorous action. The 2021 DHS Annual Conference will implement a virtual model of academic exchange, in which new formats of remote attendance engage both presenters and audience. The twofold objective is to reduce the environmental impact of short-term intercontinental travel, and to enable colleagues from any geography to participate to the conference regardless of distance or available travel funding. The CfP looks forward to testing new ways to (re-)activate dialogue and scientific exchange.

We are looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

Keynote Speakers


The FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel offers seven bachelor and four master degree courses in art, design, and art and design education and research. The school is located on the Campus of the Arts in the Basel Dreispitz area, close to several cultural institutions such as Kunsthaus Baselland, Schaulager, and the House of Electronic Arts.


Academy of Art and Design

Freilager-Platz 1

4002 Basel



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