S u m m e r  S e s s i o n s   ’16/  M e x i c o  C i ty / A u g u s t    6   —21,  2 016


'Ruins, for me, are the beginning. With the debris, you can construct new ideas. They are symbols of a beginning'

‘the unforeseen has a hard time happening because it is not yet in the database.’ 
— Hito Steyerl


Archeologists try to make sense of the past by recovering and analysing forgotten artefacts and material culture. In this process of ‘sense-making’, they inevitably bring in cultural concepts, knowledge and tools from the present. The past is rendered with eyes from the present. We argue designers do the exact opposite in their attempts of making sense of the future by creating images, objects, surfaces, buildings and interfaces. A problem they have to face, too, is that they will bring in cultural concepts, knowledge and tools from the present and the past. Or, as media theorist Marshall McLuhan has put it, ‘we drive forward into the future using only our rearview mirror’.

What can design learn from archeology and anthropology? How to use design to map out (im)possible, (im)plausible, (im)probable and (un)desirable futures? How to use these futures to better understand the present? How does an archeology of immaterial culture look like? What is the design equivalent of the excavation site? How can we use the ruin as metaphor?

This tense but exciting relation between past, present and future will be at stake in this edition of the GDA Summer Sessions. Turning our workspace into a temporary excavation site, we will experiment with practices and methodologies borrowed from archeology and anthropology, such as remote sensing, field surveys and artefact analysis. But instead of creating stories about the past as pseudo-archaeologists, we will steer our curiosity towards the near future and create new narratives, design speculations and -fictions with the vibrant history and future of Mexico City as a backdrop.


We encourage participants to use a broad array of research and design methods such as: Digital Archeology, Design Anthropology, Critical Mapping, Street Interviews, Artifact Analysis, Quantitative Photography, Speculative Design, Design Fiction, Paper Prototyping, Design Probes, Fascination Presentations, Pyramid of (Obsolete) Technology, Data Scraping, Hacking, Digital Forensics and Creative Writing.




Image by Hendrik-Jan Grievink (based on IBM’s History Flow tool).

Image by Hendrik-Jan Grievink (based on IBM’s History Flow tool).