Tales of the unexpected

There are examples of unexpected remembering in everyday situations and the following proposals are inspired by a design exploration that collected evidence of these.  I asked a group of people to join me in recording all involuntary memories on one day, from waking to sleeping.  The aim was to collect and present the involuntary memories as a source book  to inspire and suggest new spaces  to explore  further through design, and as an expression of human behaviour and everyday life that anyone might be intrigued by.  The study produced in excess of 200 photos, each with a written memory account.




book3The examples showcase evidence of involuntary remembering, describing the very intense, sometimes random and bizarre memories that come to mind through memory triggers met by chance.  They describe people’s states of mind and musings with other people which involuntary memories are defined by.

They identify clear characteristics of involuntary remembering, where stronger examples are based on very old childhood memories, triggered by hints of a memory cue.  Also evident are how important intangible cues are in triggering very powerful episodes of unexpected remembering, for example, distinct smells cueing bizarre memories from the distant past, never previously remembered.  The following proposals are inspired by the examples collected in the book.

storage serviceMemorabilia Post

This concept presents people unexpectedly with items once owned many years ago, inspired by long-forgotten memories and how forgetting and then subsequently remembering, triggers powerful memories. Memorabilia Post proposes sending items kept in the attic to a service, which redelivers them to their owner, sometime in the future.

The age of the memory is significant in producing intense unexpected remembering, where older memories often produce instances of emotionally powerful remembering.  The Memorabilia Post concept couples this low rehearsal frequency with long-forgotten memories from childhood to create experiences that might instigate moments of intense reminiscing.

media parasiteMedia Parasite

This proposal encourages chance encounters with memory cues, moments such as hearing memorable music on the radio.  Media Parasite infiltrates media channels close-by, feeding personally relevant information into public spaces.  Always carried, perhaps as a key ring, the device transmits known information about the wearer to nearby public media devices.  Publicly available data that has personal resonance, like songs from personal music collections, childhood toys or photos of places visited, could occasionally and randomly appear on nearby devices.  Imagine hearing the music video of a song listened to frequently on holiday now playing on the televisions in a shop.

souvenir mantlepieceSouvenir Mantelpiece

This concept considers traits for maintaining access to memories: collecting souvenirs and creating display areas for them at home.  However, display areas often become stagnant with memorabilia disappearing into the background and becoming an unnoticed part of the decor.  Considering ways to enhance these areas, Souvenir Mantelpiece proposes an ever-changing display of souvenirs, aimed at encouraging unexpected reminiscing.

Consisting of a digital ‘mantelpiece’ in the living room displaying images of souvenirs, it is controlled by a GPS device that uses it’s current location to send images of souvenirs associated with that place, back to the display.  Imagine relatives or friends away from home carrying they device sending souvenirs of their travels to the mantelpiece, like sending a postcard home.  Similarly, the homeowner could permanently carry the device as a key ring, where it automatically collects mementoes of travels and feeds the display each time they return home.

Many external factors influence the intensity of involuntary remembering and, as the design proposal show, there is not one method or set of rules to design for this.  Instead themes and spaces emerge that designers can take inspiration from to offer new support for personal remembering.



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