Every day, we use technology. Online interactions leave traces and traces serves as portals into different aspects of our personalities, or how we want to be perceived by others. We are encouraged to record and express everything, from our most important moments to the least. However, the digital tools we use privilege only the moment, not the long term. They also tend to make everything feel equally important, thus giving us no incentive to go through our digital traces and decide what has lasting meaning and should be preserved and what we would like to be forgotten.
The fabric of our lives is intertwined with our digital traces. What happens to them after the end of our lives? Just as our physical things live on past us, sometimes becoming a part of the lives of our family and friends this will surely be true for our data.
How might we curate our digital legacy?
Inspiration and Method
Digital afterlife is a complex, unmapped territory of Interaction Design. I had no idea where I would end up, but I knew that I would have to diverge, explore different aspects of how people relate to the notion of digital legacy and research through designing. The approach followed in this project sits in between serving the now and engaging in a speculative scenario. Even by looking at the initial “how might we” question posed in this thesis, we can recognise the critical aspect that underlines it. However, this body of design work is not only pointing out the implications of dealing with the digital traces that we leave behind by exposing the complex interdependencies between traces and privacy, but it’s also being normative by providing tools for the audience to make a judgement call on how to solve for this challenge. It might not have immediate business application, yet it resides in the intersection of time and technology that is “just around the corner”.
The purpose of this project is twofold; to raise a discussion by exposing the current implications of dealing with the data that we unconsciously create and share, as well as offer a design proposition on how digital traces might propagate after the end of our lives, serving as “portals” for our loved ones to encounter, remember and even shape our lingering digital selves.
I believe this project is one of many to come, surfacing the transition to an “information heavy culture”. As mentioned in the intro, we record and express everything and in that way creating an unobstructed flow of data ready to be mobilised. Data is not only 0 and 1s, they are getaways into our lives. I consider this project to be initial design-led exploration that paves the way for further work, by generating insights that help to map the issues and dynamics in the space of digital afterlife and showcasing that digital technologies can take many forms and have many effects, depending upon the logic and the agency that bring them to life.