The Geologic Time Viewer is an interactive graphic design. It offers a contemporary interpretation of the Geological Society of America's 1989 Geologic Time Scale.
Unlike the official Geologic Time Scale—our Viewer does not end with the present as culmination. Instead, we locate the present as the middle of geologic time. Neither beginning nor end, the present is where geologic and human forces are in the midst of unfolding and enfolding. The right represents time past, the left, how geologic time has been enculturated by human design in the present.
Through a window cut in the middle of a geologic time scale, users view their surroundings as the present geologic era--a qualitatively new epoch called the Anthropocene. Unlike all geologic strata that came before, the Anthropocene’s strata will include a distinct layer of sediment containing elements unique because of their human design (i.e. nuclear fallout and plastic).
The Viewer’s text and graphic design suggest that all geologic time is contemporary; the materialities of every previous geologic epoch flow into the present-as-middle and give form to our daily lives. Here, these materials are continuously remixed by geologic forces and enculturated by human design as products, limits and affordances.
Our project does not treat geologic time as past, inert or inaccessible. Rather, it offers a speculative tool for humans to recalibrate their senses of place and time in relation to dynamic geo-forces. It invites humans to design and act in accord with deep time and to imagine how the forces and materialities of the Anthropocene might shape deep geologic futures.
The Geologic Time Viewer was presented by smudge at the Humanities + Digital visual interpretations conference May 20-22, 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (documentation here).
The project was updated in April 2015 in conjunction with the project Uncovering Deep Time in Midtown: A Walking Tour, MoMA.
SCROLL TO THE RIGHT to experience viewer >>
Download a portable Anthropocene Viewer (PDF)