Designing for Spontaneity

Often, the approach for memory support systems is to support prescribed explicit, intense and pro active memory recall instalments.  Focusing on making people more productive in keeping evidence of memories in pure un-tampered ways, is a process people are unable to do naturally, creating a form of ‘synthetic’ remembering.  Instead, support could be designed around how people naturally encounter their memories: ad hoc and unexpectedly whilst going about everyday activities.  These proposals explore this new approach that is more akin to how people naturally remember and the value of spontaneous, lightweight memory recall.

These proposals explore the value of new iterations and representations of memory triggers causing people to notice the novel and remember the past.  They show how experiencing information associated with memories differently and unexpectedly might encourage reminiscing, where its success depends on subtlety so it is not considered intrusive and unwelcome… situations and conditions that offer links to unexpectedly exploring our past.


Ebay Frame

The proposal uses an external database of existing content to display audience-relevant images of objects currently selling on the Ebay website.  Designed to provide background prompts to memories, the frame could display era-specific content, for example, childhood toys based on the age of the people in the room.

The concept uses the Ebay website for content as it is a good example of an existing database of categorised objects.  Streaming this type of content attempts to provoke reaction; hung on a wall in a shared space, it offers background information that can be acted upon or ignored by people in the room, where seeing a glimpse of a recognisable image in the periphery may cue reminiscing.  The Ebay frame proposes how impersonal content, in this case photographs taken by strangers to sell their possessions, can be used to successfully trigger other people’s personal memories.


display rodent

Display Rodent

The Display Rodent rediscovers long-forgotten objects in the attic and offers public access to this usually private space.  The proposal creates new displays out of the previously undisplayed with a ‘camera-on-wheels’ moving randomly around, transmitting live images back to a central display screen.

Moving freely around the attic, bumping into objects, reversing and moving off into another direction, the display rodent occasionally pauses and changes camera angle.  This results in many different images of the attic that change frequently and offer unusual perspectives shown on the display.

The proposal offers space for the social exchange of memories as visitors to the house, seeing the display, might begin conversation around the images.  People’s inquisitive nature might relish opportunity to explore and reminisce objects discovered in this usually private space.

Display Rodent has since been prototyped and ‘lived-with’ for a few months… results to follow soon!


unexpected displayUnexpected Display

The Unexpected Display uses existing display areas of the home to randomly ‘highlight’ objects.  In one design, sections of a display shelf move vertically to ‘pedestal’ objects higher than their display companions, encouraging people to take more notice.

In another, a display cabinet with frosted glass reveals new perspectives to the objects stored within as small areas of the glass clear.  Random in where and how much of the glass clears, new and sometimes incomplete views of objects are revealed requiring people to decipher what they are seeing, refreshing contact and potentially triggering memories in the process.

Both offer new ways of displaying and consuming personal memorabilia, where changing the display encourages owners to engage and interact with their objects once again rather than blending into the background and becoming forgotten.


false memory frameFalse Memory Frame

The False Memory Frame proposal uses a digital photo frame in the home, accessible to all family members and visitors, to display composite pictures created from the family’s digital photo collection.  The compiled images use elements from one photo composed against parts from another, producing a feeling of familiarity as well as questioning the mis-information presented.

Whilst a digital photo frame that changes photos frequently and randomly already promotes unexpected remembering, extending this to suggest ‘wrong’ memories through composite pictures enhances this.  People may recognise a photo as belonging to them but may have to interrogate their memories to fully understand the composition.  As a result, these photos require more effort to understand associated memories, where the act of doing so and proving the image wrong, forces people to spend more time reminiscing.

This concept could be extended to link meaningful dates, people or places to the composite picture displayed.  Related images could be taken from other online databases creating a collage of visual prompts, some from personal memory archives interspersed with public data.  Consider a personal photograph from a city break forming a composite picture with an images from a news report on the same place, and the memories this may trigger.  Or other people’s photographs from the places visited displayed on the frame on significant anniversaries.  There are many ways ‘false’ images presented through this display could extend aspects of involuntary remembering.

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