Bridging the Gap – Traditional into Technology:

Ever forgotten a conversation, message or fact you ensured yourself you would remember? Consider a society where this traditional process of human memory becomes almost obsolete.

The digital age has provided many advances in technology to benefit all aspects of everyday life,  including research into elements to  compliment the basic structure of our bodies. Have we now reached the point where these developments begin replacing our natural functional processes as humans?

Japanese designer ‘Saburo Sakata’ has started commenting on this theory through his metaphoric ‘message-in-a-bottle “Blank USB”. The simple and timeless design of a USB attached to a cork inside a glass jar has many potential levels for exploration. Inspired by Chunosuke Matsuyama’s experiences and the traditional romantic process of sending messages; Sakata has developed a modern reincarnation of storing digital memories in a bottle.

Blank USB – Saburo Sakata

The audience instantly recognises its initial intension as a quirky reinterpretation of a traditional and familiar process. This connection made through the metaphor acts as a “surrogate for the tangibility that cannot be provided or experienced in advanced” (Levitt, T, 2008). It takes the untouchable fantasy of receiving or storing memories in a bottle and places it within realistic reach. It is through this further study of the object that its comment on digital footprints and their ability to store memories forever becomes truly apparent. Sakata is able to compare the disposability of our minds and ability to keep memories against an object that was initially designed to store information indefinitely. The subconscious elements and deeper meaning behind the object determines its success as it makes a lasting impression on the audience.

Logical Art (founded by Hanhsi Chen and Yookyung Shin) has also begun exploring this concept of storing digital memories in their 2011 collection “Empty Memory” USB’s. Made from a combination of sleek stainless steel and translucent acrylic’ they consist of two basic designs, ‘Structure’ and ‘Transparent’. Their physical appearance highlights a sense of emptiness as a way of creating the metaphor of filling the space with your memory (Dezeen, 2011). This develops a familiar connection between the traditional process of human memory and transforming it into an everlasting digital footprint. The metaphoric quality of the designed aesthetic acts as the driving factor initially drawing the us to the concept. This is due to our need to “take what is unappealing and disorganised and reframe it into order and delight” (Hendrix, M, 2012). It allows the gap between limited natural processes of the mind and the timeless manufacturing of digital storing to be addressed. By giving deeper meaning and a sense of concept to an overlooked and unappreciated technological development, both designers are able to move the traditional into the everlasting sphere of the digital.

Empty Memory USB – Logical Art
Initial Sketches of Empty Memory USB

Imagine the further developments that can be created from these initial designs. Individuals can be equipped with the sleek and quirky designs for instant storage of all memories. The stress of potentially forgetting important information one day would diminish as an individual’s mind becomes limitless. We have already started with a step in this direction. Now think about the possibilities.