Erika Tarte

Design Future History

Technology continually restructures our relationship to memory — the storage and retrieval of information, and its synthesis into knowledge. Design Future History serves as an exploration of, and meditation on, transformations to memory occasioned by new media. How have memory-bearing technologies, from the written systems to mobile applications, imposed order on knowledge? How does the formal ordering of knowledge, its conceptual and visual presentation, influence the stories designers re/construct from remnants
of the past?

I use design to explore language as a technology, making observations on the evolution of mnemonic techniques from orality to today’s “information age.” I conduct field research to understand the persistence of material in an increasingly immaterial world. I develop a theory of digital temporality, separate from the experience of past and present in the physical world, and build tools that allow users to more conscientiously interact with new media environments. I provide strategies for designers to more rigorously interrogate media, and a methodological framework for the designer as “future historian” — the gatekeeper between past actuality and potential representation.

In an effort to extend the theoretical foundation of graphic design, my projects and research bring into concert the writings of designers, media theorists, historians, philosophers, computer scientists, fine artists, and myriad others pursuing questions of memory and history. From this research, I position my own design practice as an ongoing conversation between truth and semblance.