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Dr Helga Schmid

PhD Work

Uchronia: Time at the Intersection of Design, Chronobiology and Chronosociology

The societal transformation from an agricultural to an urbanised 24/7 society, reflected in a move from natural time to the mechanical clock to the contemporary digital age, has significantly influenced our daily biological and social rhythms. Modern technology has fostered an increasing temporal fragmentation, heralding an era of flexible time with ever more complex processes of synchronisation. These inhumane rhythms conflict with the natural rhythmicity of the human biological clock.

This thesis investigates the potential of new perceptions of time through the application of uchronia — a term derived from the Greek word ou-chronos meaning ‘no time’ or ‘non-time’, and from utopia, from the Greek ou-topos. This research is situated within contemporary debates on the nature of temporality, often denoted as time crisis or dyschronia. It investigates uchronia as temporal utopia and in the way it generates insights about our knowledge of contemporary temporality.

The research develops an original uchronian methodology and applications of uchronian thinking in practice-led design research, intertwining design, chronobiological and chronosociological research to propose a new area of chronodesign.

Through design practice, I explore how scientific research can be translated into lived, aesthetic experience. The methods range from critical and speculative design (thought experiments), artistic research (unlearning methods), to methods drawn from chronobiological research (zeitgeber method). I investigate practical work which challenges thought patterns regarding the temporal structure of contemporary life, in which participants explore alternative time-givers or synchronisers, in order to think outside the boundaries of clocks and calendars.

By providing a broadened definition of uchronianism, I aim to establish uchronia as a platform for critical thought and debate on the contemporary time crisis, with chronodesign as a practical design initiative.


  • PhD


    School of Communication


    Visual Communication, 2011–2017

  • Dr Helga Schmid is a design researcher, designer, curator and lecturer. She completed a PhD in Design Interactions and Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art, where she teaches on the MA Information Experience Design. Her research is situated within contemporary debates on the nature of temporality. By investigating the topic of time through an interdisciplinary approach of design, chronosocioloy and chronobiology, she suggests a new practical design initiative: chronodesign.

    Previously, Helga was a researcher in the Architecture and Design depart­ment at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has worked internationally as a designer (exhibition, editorial and digital design). She has exhibited her work worldwide and received a number of international awards and scholarships.

  • Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Design, School of Visual Arts, New York, USA, 2010; Postgraduate Degree in Communication Design (Summa cum laude), University of Applied Sciences, Augsburg, Germany 2007
  • Experience

  • Researcher, Architecture and Design Department, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; Art director, 2007–present
  • Exhibitions

  • Friday Late at the V&A, Victoria & Albert Museum London, UK, April 2017; Sonar Barcelona: Music, Creativity & Technology Festival Barcelona, Spain, June 2016; Memories of The Future, Machines Room – Makerspace, London, UK, 2015; Whimsical Cloud, Venice Design Week, San Leonardo Venedig, Italien, October 2011; London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Gallery London, UK, September 2011; DMY International Design Festival, Flughafen Berlin Tempelhof Berlin, Germany, Juni 2011; One Word at a Time, Arts in Bushwick, Grace Exhibition Space New York, USA, March 2010; Unleashed, Visual Arts Gallery New York, USA, Mai 2010; X-initiative, Dia:Chelsea, Dia Art Foundation, New York, USA, March 2010
  • Awards

  • PhD Scholarship DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), 2013-214; Postgraduate Scholarship DAAD, 2009-2010; Fulbright Scholarship, 2008-2009; Type Directors Award, New York, 2010; Type Directors Award, New York 2009; Art Directors Award, New York, 2009; Output Award, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2009; Best German Book Design, Stiftung Buchkunst, Frankfurt, Germany, 2008
  • Conferences

  • 2nd International Conference on Anticipation, Senate House, School of Advanced Study London, UK, November 2017; Research Summer Symposium, Royal College of Art London, UK, July 2017; European Biological Rhythms Society Congress, University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, Niederlande, August 2017; Board of International Research in Design Conference, Braunschweig University of the Art, Germany, June 2017; Troubling Time: An Exploration of Temporality in the Arts, University of Manchester Manchester, UK, Juni 2017; Woman in Light and Lighting, ARUP Group, London, UK, March 2017; Time, Materiality and the Digital, University of Greenwich London, UK, July 2015; Zündfunk Netzkongress 15, Volkstheater, München, Germany, October 2015; European Biological Rhythms Society, Congress, University Manchester, UK, August 2015; PhD by Design, Goldsmith University, London, UK, November 2014; Interactivity/Interpassivity, University of Wolverhampton, UK, June 2013; Life (Bildung), Barbican Centre, London, UK, August 2013
  • Publications

  • Schmid, Helga: Embodiment of Time. In: Boradhurst, Susan; Price, Sara (ed.) Digital Bodies: Creativity and Technology in the Arts and Humanities. Palgrave Macmillan UK (in press).; Schmid, Helga: Zeitgeist und Zeitgeber. In Mareis, Claudia; Blümle, Claudia; Windgätter, Christof (ed.): Visuelle Zeitgestaltung, Bildwelten des Wissens, Berlin: De Gruyter (in press).; Schmid, Helga: Circadian Space – Biotemporal and Sociotemporal Living Space. In: Brooker, Graeme; Harriss, Harriet; Walker, Kevin (ed.): The Future of Interiors. Yountville: Crucible Press (in preparation).; Schmid, Helga: Intuitive Communication. In: Talk To Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects, Museum of Modern Art: Talk to Me Blog 2011.