Digital Remains: Design Research

Context:

  • 2006
  • Self-initiated, final piece at the Royal College of Art
  • Design research and interview study for Digital Remains, a design piece on death and digital culture.

Methods & Deliverables:

  • Interview study with people who have lost loved-ones and remember them through digital data
  • Visual exploration of mode of remembrance (place, time, things)

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The background thinking and design research for Digital Remains covered several months of my 2nd year at the Royal College of Art and it was a combination of interviews, reading, drawing, physical sketching, filming and process design.

Traditionally, our mourning rituals use places (grave yards, places of contemplation, places of joint memory, etc.), time (anniversaries, seasons, etc.) and objects (photographs, objects that belonged to the deceised, etc.) as links to our feelings and memories related to our deceased loved-ones.

Since we have begun to create massive amounts of digital content which also includes personal digital content, our ancestors will not find photoalbums and diaries in old wooden trunks in our attics but will find them as data on old computers, hard drives, mobile phones, web pages and social media sites.

This is not bad or regrettable (we will not stop creating tangible things too), it is simply a change in tools and behaviours. The only thing we might want to consider is whether we want to pay more attention and care to the design and meaning of data and its containers.

I conducted several interviews in order to examine how we mourn, which ‘links’ we use for mourning and which role digital data is increasingly playing in our mourning rituals.

In this qualitative, anecdotical research, I found that the younger the people I spoke to were, the more prominent digital content became for remembering loved-ones. The relevance of digital content as link to a deceased loved-one was as high as rituals around places, time and objects were.

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Design Research for Digital Remains

Digital Remains: Design Research

Places: Graveyards

Digital Remains: Design Research

Places: A place by the river where a man from the UK goes in order to remember his friend.

Digital Remains: Design Research

Places & Objects: Bench with engraving

Digital Remains: Design Research

Place and Object: "This is where my father and I used to play with the frisbee."

Digital Remains: Design Research

Object: "For some reason I am keeping this candle since my friend died."

Digital Remains: Design Research

Objects: Memorial cards

Digital Remains: Design Research

Object: "I wear my wife's scarf since she died, this is how she is with me all the time."

Digital Remains: Design Research

Digital Remains: The mobile phone of the boyfriend's father as part of the shrine.

Digital Remains: Design Research

Digital Remains: A woman in the UK grieving for her sister who had died in Mexico. She copied the contents of her sister's computer onto hers and logged into her account it every now and then.

Digital Remains: Design Research

Digital Remains: A woman in the UK grieving for her deceased uncle in Japan. She keeps a digital voice mail message of him as a memory.

Digital Remains: Design Research

The bereaved (yellow figures) I interviewed who were mourning for a loved one (red figure) were located across the world: Rituals around objects and time and digital content became important.

Digital Remains: Design Research

Initial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keys

Digital Remains: Design Research

Initial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keys

Digital Remains: Design Research

Initial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keys

Places: GraveyardsPlaces: A place by the river where a man from the UK goes in order to remember his friend.Places & Objects: Bench with engravingPlace and Object: "This is where my father and I used to play with the frisbee."Object: "For some reason I am keeping this candle since my friend died."Objects: Memorial cardsObject: "I wear my wife's scarf since she died, this is how she is with me all the time."Digital Remains: The mobile phone of the boyfriend's father as part of the shrine.Digital Remains: A woman in the UK grieving for her sister who had died in Mexico. She copied the contents of her sister's computer onto hers and logged into her account it every  now and then.Digital Remains: A woman in the UK grieving for her deceased uncle in Japan. She keeps a digital voice mail message of him as a memory.The bereaved (yellow figures) I interviewed who were mourning for a loved one (red figure) were located across the world: Rituals around objects and time and digital content became important.Initial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keysInitial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keysInitial photo story & physical sketch of the Digital Remains access keys

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