Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 31–43 | Cite as

Easy on that trigger dad: a study of long term family photo retrieval

  • Steve WhittakerEmail author
  • Ofer Bergman
  • Paul Clough
Original Article


We examine the effects of new technologies for digital photography on people’s longer term storage and access to collections of personal photos. We report an empirical study of parents’ ability to retrieve photos related to salient family events from more than a year ago. Performance was relatively poor with people failing to find almost 40% of pictures. We analyze participants’ organizational and access strategies to identify reasons for this poor performance. Possible reasons for retrieval failure include: storing too many pictures, rudimentary organization, use of multiple storage systems, failure to maintain collections and participants’ false beliefs about their ability to access photos. We conclude by exploring the technical and theoretical implications of these findings.


Photography PIM Long term retrieval Digital memories 



We thank our participants for their time and efforts. This research was funded by the European Union Marie Curie Grant, TOK 30008 (Memoir). The authors are solely responsible for the content of this paper. It does not represent the opinion of supporting funding agencies, and the supporters are not responsible for any use that might be made of data appearing therein.


  1. 1.
    Abrams D, Baecker R, Chignell M (1998) Information archiving with bookmarks: personal web space construction and organization. In: Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 1998), Los Angeles, California, New York: ACM PressGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Adams B, Phung D, Venkatesh S (2006) Extraction of social context and application to personal multimedia exploration. In: Proceedings of the 14th annual ACM international conference on multimedia (MULTIMEDIA ‘06), ACM Press, Santa Barbara, pp 987–996Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Aula A, Jhaveri N, Käki M (2005) Information search and re-access strategies of experienced web users. In: Proceedings of WWW 2005, pp 583–592Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Balabanović M, Chu LL, Wolff GJ (2000) Storytelling with digital photographs. In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (CHI ‘00), ACM Press, The Hague, The Netherlands, pp 564–571Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Baxevanis A (2006) The journey of a digital photograph, MSc dissertation, UCLGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bellotti V, Ducheneaut N, Howard MA, Smith IE, Grinter RE (2005) Quality versus quantity: e-mail-centric task management and its relation with overload. Human-Comput Interact 20(1–2):89–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bergman O, Beyth-Marom R, Nachmias R (2003) The user-subjective approach to personal information management systems. J Am Soc Inform Sci Technol 54(9):872–878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bergman O, Beyth-Marom R, Nachmias R (2008) The user-subjective approach to personal information management systems design—evidence and implementations. J Am Soc Inform Sci Technol 59(2):235–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bergman O, Beyth-Marom R, Nachmias R, Gradovitch N, Whittaker S (2008) Improved search engines and navigation preference in personal information management. ACM Transact Inform Syst 26(4):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bergman O, Beyth-Marom R, Hadar D, Dekel A (2000) From “learning-by-viewing” to “learning-by-doing”: A video annotation educational technology tool. In: Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2000, world conference on educational multimedia hypermedia & telecommunications, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, pp 1555–1556Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Boardman R, Sasse MA (2004) Stuff goes in the Computer but it doesn’t come out. In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (CHI’04), ACM Press, New York, pp 583–590Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Brewer W (1988) Memory for randomly sampled autobiographical events. In: Neisser U, Winograd E (eds) Remembering reconsidered. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 21–90Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Chalfen R (1987) Snapshot versions of life. Popular Press, Bowling Green OhioGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Chen C, Oakes MP, Tait J (2006) Browsing personal images using episodic memory (time + location). In: Proceedings of European conference on information retrieval (ECIR 2006), pp 362–372Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cohen KR (2005) What does the photoblog want? Media, Culture and Society 27:883–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Cooper M, Foote J, Girgensohn A, Wilcox L (2005) Temporal event clustering for digital photo collections. ACM Trans Multimedia Comput Commun Appl 1(3):269–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cui J, Wen F, Xiao R, Tian Y, Tang X (2007) EasyAlbum: an interactive photo annotation system based on face clustering and re-ranking. In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (CHI’07), ACM Press, San Jose, pp 367–376Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Czerwinski M, Horvitz E (2002) Memory for daily computing events. In: Proceedings of HCI 2002, pp 230-245Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Eldridge M, Lamming M, Flynn M (1991) Does a video diary help recall? EuroPARC Technical Report, No. EPC-1991-124Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Frohlich D, Kuchinsky A, Pering C, Don A, Ariss S (2002) Requirements for photoware. In: Proceedings of the 2002 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW’02), New Orleans, ACM Press, pp 166–175Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Frohlich D (2004) Audiophotography: bringing photos to life with sounds (The Computer Supported Cooperative Work Series), ISBN 1402023316. Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gemmell J, Bell G, Lueder R (2006) MyLifeBits: a personal database for everything. Communications of the ACM (CACM) 49(1):88–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Graham A, Garcia-Molina H, Paepcke A, Winograd T (2002) Time as essence for photo browsing through personal digital libraries. In: Proceedings of the 2nd ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL ‘02), Portland, ACM Press, pp 326–335Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hirsch M (1997). Family frames: photography, narrative and postmemory. Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jones W (2008) Keeping found things found: the study and practice of personal information management. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Burlington, MAGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kalnikaitė V, Whittaker S (2007) Software or Wetware? Discovering when and why people use digital prosthetic memory. In: Proceedings of CHI07, ACM, New York, pp 71–80Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kalnikaite V, Whittaker S (2008) Social summarization: does social feedback improveaccess to speech data? In Proceedings of conference on computer supported co-operative work, ACM Press, New York, pp 9–12Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kang H, Bederson B, Suh B (2007) Capture, annotate, browse, find, share: novel interfaces for personal photo management. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction 23(3):315–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    King G (1986) Say “Cheese”. The Snapshot as Art and Social History London, CollinsGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Kirk DS, Sellen A, Rother C, Wood K (2006) Understanding Photowork. In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI’06), ACM Press, Montreal, pp 761–770Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Linton M (1978) Real world memory after six years. In: Gruneberg M, Morris P, Sykes R (eds) Practical aspects of memory. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Marshall CC (2007) How people manage personal information over a lifetime. In: Jones, Teevan (eds) Personal Information Management, University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington, pp 57–75Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Mulhem P, Lim JH (2003) Home photo retrieval: time matters. In: International conference on image and video retrieval, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 2728, Springer, pp 308–317Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Narayanaswami C, Raghunath MT (2004) Expanding the digital camera’s reach. IEEE Comput 37(12):65–73Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Petrelli D, Whittaker S, Brockmeier J (2008) Autotopography: What can Physical Mementos tell us about Digital Memories? In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’08), ACM Press, New York, pp 53–62Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Petrelli D, Whittaker S (2008) The use of photos in the home and in the computer: similarities and differences. In: Proceedings of workshop on “collocated social practices surrounding photos” at CHI 2008Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Platt JC, Czerwinski M, Field BA (2003) PhotoTOC: automatic clustering for browsing personal photographs. In: Proceedings of the fourth IEEE Pacific Rim Conference (ICICS-FCM 2003)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ringel M, Cutrell E, Dumais S, Horvitz E (2003) Milestones in time: the value of landmarks in retrieving information from personal stores. In: Proceedings of Interact 2003, pp 228–235Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Rodden K, Wood KR (2003) How do people manage their digital photographs? In: Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ‘03), ACM Press, New York, pp 409–416Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    San Pedro J, Kalnikaite V, Whittaker S (2009). You can play that again: exploring social redundancy to derive highlight regions in videos. In: Intelligent User Interfaces. ACM Press, New York, pp 469–474Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sellen A, Fogg A, Hodges S, Rother C, Wood K (2007) Do life-logging technologies support memory for the past? an experimental study using SenseCam. In: Proceedings of CHI ‘07, ACM Press , New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Shneiderman B, Kang H (2000) Direct annotation: a drag-and-drop strategy for labeling photos. In: Proceedings of international conference on information visualisation (IV2000), London, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Stevens M, Abowd G, Truong K, Vollmer F (2003) Getting into the living memory box: family archives and holistic design. Personal Ubiquit Comput Technol 7(3–4):210–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Suh B, Bederson BB (2007) Semi-automatic photo annotation strategies using event based clustering and clothing based person recognition. Interact Comput 19(4):524–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Tauscher L, Greenberg S (1997) How people revisit web pages: empirical findings and implications for the design of history systems. Int J Human-Comput Studies 47(1):97–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Tan D, Berry E, Czerwinski M, Bell G, Gemmell J, Hodges S, Kapur N, Meyers B, Oliver N, Robertson G, Wood K (2007) Save everything: supporting human memory with a personal digital lifetime store. In: Jones W, Teevan J (eds) Personal information management. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Wagenaar W (1986) My memory: a study of autobiographical memory after six years. Cogn Psychol 18:225–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Williams C (2000) The meaning of family photographs, [Available online:]
  49. 49.
    Whittaker, S (2005) Supporting Collaborative Task Management in E-mail. Human Comput Interact 20(1):49–88CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Whittaker S, Sidner C (1996) Email overload: exploring personal information management of Email. In: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’96), pp 276–283Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Whittaker S, Hirschberg J (2001) The character, value and management of paper archive. ACM Trans Comput Human Interact 8:150–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information StudiesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations