Connecting Generations: Preserving Memories with Thanatosensitive Technologies

  • Cyndi Wiley
  • Yun Wang
  • Ryan Musselman
  • Beverly Krumm
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 173)


Hand-written letters have morphed over the past two decades from the physical realm of ink on paper to digital text displayed on a digital screen, making emails the most common digital format for letters. Old shoeboxes were used as storage spaces for hand-written letters and photographs, bound together with ribbons or rubber bands. The shoebox would then be tucked away somewhere in the house, only to see the light of day years later after a vigorous bout of house cleaning, on a special occasion or after one’s death. Since email archives are not the physical artifact of a shoebox of letters and photographs, it is much more difficult to bequeath them to an heir after death. Our proposal is the development of an application named Shoebox that will connect family and friends through the bequeathing of Gmail archives, Picasa photos and YouTube videos.


Interface design User-centered design 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Banks, R.: Richard Banks: An introduction to technology heirlooms (2010), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  2. 2.
    Carroll, E.: Afterlife predictions for 2010. The Digital Beyond (2010), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  3. 3.
    Carrol, E.: The Digital Beyond (2011), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  4. 4.
    Carroll, E.R.J.: Your digital afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are your estate, what’s your legacy? Berkeley, New Riders (2011)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Czaja, S., Lee, C.C.: Designing computer systems for older adults. In: Jacko, J., Sears, A. (eds.) The human-computer interaction handbook: Fundamentals, evolving technologies, and emerging applications, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New York (2001)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Facebook Statistics (2011), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  7. 7.
    Hitwise Top 20 Sites & Engines (2011), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  8. 8.
    Kirk, D., Banks, R.: On the design of technology heirlooms. In: SIMTech 2008, ACM, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kirk, D., Izadi, S., et al.: Opening up the family archive. In: CSCW 2010, ACM, Savannah (2010) (retrieved January 8, 2011)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kubler-Ross, E.: On death and dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy and their own families. Macmillan Publishing, Co. Inc., New York (1969)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Love, J.: Approaching 65: A Survey of Boomers Turning 65 Years Old. Transitions. AARP (2010)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Madden, M.: Older adutls and social media. Pew Internet (2010), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  13. 13.
    Madrigal, A.: 375,000 Facebook users may die this year. What do we do with their stuff? The Atlantic (2011), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  14. 14.
    Massimi, M., Charise, A.: Dying, death and mortality: Towards thanatosensitivity in HCI. In: CHI 2009 ~ alt.chi ~ Life, Love, Death, ACM, Boston (2009)Google Scholar
  15. 15., Online activities 2000-2009. Pew Internet (2011), (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  16. 16.
    Pingdom, Internet 2009, in numbers (2010),, (retrieved January 8, 2011)
  17. 17.
    U.S. Census Bureau (2011). Deaths by Age and Selected Causes: 2007. U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data for 2007, vol. 58(19), U.S. Census Bureau (May 2010)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Walker, A.C.: Life span issues and end-of-life decision making. In: Balk, D. (ed.) Handbook of Thanatology: The essential body of knowledge for the study of death, dying and bereavement, Association for Death Education and Counseling, The Thanatology Association, Florence (2007)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyndi Wiley
    • 1
  • Yun Wang
    • 1
  • Ryan Musselman
    • 1
  • Beverly Krumm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Art and DesignIowa State UniversityIowaUSA

Personalised recommendations