Memory Full?
Reimagining the Relations between Design and History

2-4 September 2021 | FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel, Switzerland

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 hybrid model of academic exchange, in which physical and remote attendance are blended and equally catered for. 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 relaunch of the following CfP looks forward to testing new ways to (re-)activate dialogue and scientific exchange.

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. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to:

● the designed environment as distributed archive
● emerging sites of knowledge production and dissemination
● mediation and consumption of story-telling
● design histories as design fictions
● design and critical heritage
● data cultures in design practice and mediation
● blind spots in the memory of design
● indigenous epistemologies
● decolonizing sites of memory
● alternative genealogies
● design and personal or collective memory
● design history as a form of activism and repair
● the practitioner as a historian, the historian as a practitioner
● relations between design practices and historiography
● designerly ways of doing history
● trans-modern and trans-cultural models
● historicising emerging design practices
● the challenges of digitalisation
● radical pedagogies in design history

Proposals (The CfP for this event has closed on 1 March 2021)

We welcome proposals for individual papers of 20 minutes, and proposals for thematically coherent panels of three papers. Panel proposals must include abstracts for all three papers in addition to a short description of the panel theme. We also encourage submissions that propose alternative formats for research dissemination and collective knowledge production. The conference will have a hybrid format to accommodate both physical and remote presentations. Please consider both modes of presentation when planning your proposal.

If you submitted a proposal last year for "Memory full? 2020 DHS Annual Conference" and are interested in resubmitting it, please upload your proposal again in order to be considered.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 1 March 2021. Proposals should be submitted through the link on this page and include:

● title
● abstract of up to 300 words
● short biography of each author (up to 60 words)
● authors’ names and affiliations
● description of the format of the contribution (paper / panel / alternative format)
● three keywords

All submissions will be double blind peer-reviewed by the conference scientific committee. For any queries please contact


Call for PapersAnnual DHS Conference Deadline: 1 March 2021

Conference: 2-4 September 2021


FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel, Switzerland

The CfP for this conference has closed.

We thank all participants who have shared their invaluable proposals. We hope to inform you on final decisions on the acceptance of proposals in April.