Photo mementos: designing digital media to represent ourselves at home

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Petrelli, Daniela ; Bowen, Simon ; Whittaker, Steve (2014)

We examine photos in the family home as examples of mementos, cherished objects kept in memory of a person or event. In a ‘memory tour’, we asked participants to walk us through their family home selecting and discussing significant mnemonic objects. With each personal narrative we recorded memento location, i.e. the room, place within the room and any nearby objects. Although photos were not the most popular mementos, when chosen they were highly significant, and often unique. These photo mementos were usually not representational but symbolic, where only the owner knows their many layers of meaning. Photos from different times in the person’s life were strategically placed in different rooms. Their location afforded different functions, e.g. photo mementos in family spaces reinforced family bonds, photo mementos in personal spaces were for immersive reminiscing, whereas those in public rooms had an aesthetic value and to spark conversations with visitors. Finally photo mementos were rarely isolated: they were clustered in displayed albums or stored with other memorabilia in boxes or drawers to represent a stage in life. We explore the implications of these findings by designing potential new home photo technologies, looking at how new designs might support the types of behaviours observed. Through four conceptual designs we examine how photo technology might integrate into the practices and aesthetic of the family home. The concepts led to a set of concluding considerations that need to be taken into account when designing new forms of display technology that are part of a larger domestic photo system.
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