Digital Immortality or Not?
Dusty photo albums and boxes of letters are being replaced with hard drives and cloud storage. Instead of fading images and ink, we have the endurance of digital bytes and, however succeeding, our emotional needs remain grossly unsatisfied.
Current tools for digital memento and archive management are not intended to function for post-life communications. They do not sufficiently consider the longevity of content, digital legacies, or relevancy of content over time.
In this increasingly digital world, is it intentional that we only plan for the future of our physical selves? If not, then how can we sustain a residual presence after we are gone—if that’s even what we want? How can we have a legacy that will matter to future generations?
Inspiration and Method
The aim of this thesis was to explore how we might be stewards for our post-life digital self after physical death, and to provide a new interaction experience in the form of a tangible, digital, or service design solution.
Early primary and secondary research investigations revealed how cultural legacies and historical methods and materials can inspire the legacy of digital content for the subsequent generations of technocrats. Insights included:
- Even though post-life digital asset management awareness is increasing, little consideration exists on how to reflect legacies into the future long after death.
- People want to be remembered forever, but current methods of tangible and digital content management can not sufficiently support this endeavour.
Initial concepts were tested to address distinctive qualities between tangible and digital design solutions which led to a culmination between the effective qualities of both approaches.
How can we leverage digital content to become part of an everlasting legacy? The concept is a tablet user interface called Legacy, with an associated tangible token used as a connection key to navigate kindred connections. It harnesses the benefits that both digital and tangible media afford to align relevant moments from all of our lives that transcend time and generations.
Kindred Connections are commonalities and moments you share with deceased from at least two generations afore—people you could not know in life.
Connection Keys act as a unique identifier to anchor your life events amongst archives of the dead to navigate kindred connections.
Connections are available with relatives, celebrities, and public from the past and can include various types of media (i.e. video, photos, text). The connections rely on associated metadata (i.e. keyword tags, date stamps, geolocation) to provide the relevant context between your life events and the deceased that can also be recreated and saved as a tribute from today.
Jess Myra presented her thesis work at TEDx Reykjavik on June 3rd, 2013.