The large amount of digital data we leave behind can possibly exist for eternity, raising questions of curation, ownership and storage. With “Postgeist” the user is collecting a digital legacy to bequeath material and immaterial things to their family and close friends to create long-lasting memories. The heirs are encouraged to explore those pictures, thoughts and stories through objects, place and time. A digital legacy will be built and becomes a bridge to connect family generations over time.

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A Shared Space

Above, I’ve posted a model of the Postgeist system.

Core of the concept is seen on the button of the model: “The User is collecting and organizing a legacy to leave for Heirs”. This statement immediately makes clear that there are two kinds of users who interact with the system – the User and their Heirs. The user collects and tags their legacy, to leave for their heirs. The heirs explore that legacy, and potentially begin collecting a legacy of their own. The legacy itself is the bridge that connects those two sets of users across time.

The user maintains his/her digital property which is divided into spaces in order to define its scoop. The digital property is a big part of the users legacy but can not be seen without the context in which the legacy is becoming meaningful for heirs. As aid to generate value to the legacy the system will ask the user to contribute meaningful context to already existing content. In order to add this context the user logs into the system where he/she can see all the content that was produced a year ago – this can be from social networks, personal sites (blog) and owned computers. With this feature the user will be asked to reflect on a year old experiences and can then add stories, memories and thoughts. The system will ask the user to look once a month into his/her content. The memories added can not only be videos, photos and writing but also physical objects and the system will add metadata to all existing content.

Creating a legacy is about creating a shared space that reveals ones identity. The content in this space acts as seeds to remind not only the user of shared experiences but also the heirs. In this digital space the user can than add his version of the experience. Those experiences are closely related to time, place, object and people which will become the metadata connecting all experiences.

The heirs can not only see the the whole digital legacy but are rather encouraged to explore the content through the metadata. Time, place, object and people will be the seed for varying viewpoints on the content.
With time the heirs can see all the content related to age, so for example the 27 year old heir would so all the content from his/her grandmother when she was 27 in order to directly compare lives.
The same comparison is happening with place: if the heir is going to a relevant place, lets say grandmother birthplace, content connected to that metadata will be shown. The heirs can not only explore the physical space of their ancestors but also see the digital data related.
Physical objects will be tagged with digital data by the user (or already tagged) and when the heir is taking a picture of the object or if he/she is holding it in front of the computer this information can be seen. This allows to bring mementos that are part of a experience or a “seed” for a experience into the legacy.
People who shared a experience will be tagged in the system to allow to understand someone better through his/her network.

All the data will be saved online and the output of the legacy can have different forms. It can be physical letters, objects, a app or an email. Since this service is supposed to last for decades it will be up to the heirs how they intent to view the ancestors legacy. The service will provide the view through meta information and data will be stored as accessible as possible readable on as many devices as possible.

Uncertainties: What exactly is it that the user is leaving for the heirs? How can the legacy be “opened”?

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Concept Model

Since I was stuck with my thesis last week, I used my learned knowledge from the Dan Brown workshop to try his concept of visual thinking. The model I came up with is a start and shows that there are elements missing around the heirs – the section I haven’t fully explored.
Things I know: I learned during my research that it is part of the grief to put shared objects that trigger memories out of sight (e.g in the shoebox in the closet). This helps to not be hurtfully remembered every day but rather to decide to look at the mementos at a chosen time. For my intended service I would like to have a carefully designed experience of “opening” the legacy. I also want the heirs to be able to explore the legacy, compare to own life and eventually learn.

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Status update

My thesis is divided into two parts. During the last semester I concentrated on the first part: collecting and building a legacy. Here, I have to think a little more about the content strategy. Elliott gave me the good tip of looking into signpost and I will integrate them. The milestones (or signposts) in life will be highlighted to function as a guiding path through someones legacy.
The second part – the legacy as a heritage – is not fully considered yet. Since this is what will get inherited and what will survive as a reflection of someones life, it should be long-lasting and very meaningful. The problem is, that the digital world can not always compete with the physical world when we talk about long-lasting or meaningful objects and experiences. For the next few weeks I want to consider the integration of tangible objects into the second part of my thesis. Still, I have to figure out why and what this object should be and how the heirs would interact with it. Also, in case the key gets carried on, I would like to bring it back in the end in order to get a complete story. So, next step is thinking about the interaction of viewing the legacy and I would like to solve the following problems:

How does the object look like? Why?
Why is it important to someone (besides the content on it)?
How can the heirs view the legacy?
When will the heirs view the legacy?

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The Key Concept

Please click on the picture to see the next slide.

Main touchpoints in the service design experience are a “key”, a website and the actual legacy that will be inherited (can be a book, letters, etc.).

The key is a physical object chosen by the customer. This object will be used as a password to open the website to his/her legacy, his object is unique to every customer. Once used to open the webside, the key allows to travel back in time so that the user can see his/her data uploaded or taken a year ago.

The website is linked to social networks, nevertheless it is a personal private space to the
customer. The content from social networks acts as a starting point to make it easier to add additional stories that bring pictures and data from social networks into context. The additional stories can be read a year in the future and there can be new content again so that the website can show age by a growing information stream. With this site a digital legacy can be build.

After one dies the site and the complete legacy can be inherited. The customer can give the object to someone else. By using this object a page can be opened and the form of the legacy can be chosen.

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Meaning in Digital Data

In order to answer the question how digital data is becoming meaningful I compared the properties and benefits of digital and physical objects. (more information can be found in the book “The Digital Afterlife” pg. 16)

Some insights I had:

Physical objects are tangible and can be held in the same way over generations, as a result owners can physically connect with each other. Digital object, in contrast, are intangible, to actually hold a digital object a device (like iPad) is needed. Therefore the meaningful digital data itself can never be held and the owner can only connect with previous owners through content.

Physical objects can break down and show age, that points out that the object has survived time and events: it tells a story. Because digital object do not age, they do not show this quality, but meaning can be added by additional information (metadata) which can grow over time.

Physical objects are taking up physical space, which can become a visible place in someones life. Digital objects require minimal space and is not necessarily visible, however the act of revisiting a digital object can be a good opportunity to create a meaningful experience.

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Project Goals

Future Proven

I am creating a service design experience which will enable the user to save, curate and inherit data. The service should reflect that the user will have a long-lasting experience with the service and that this experience can potentially life for at least the next 100 years.


This service should easily enable the user to define meaningful data. Future generations should not only understand an individual better but also connect with their ancestors. How can digital data become meaningful to somebody:

Media Independent

Since the customer are having digital data on different platforms, gadgets and software it is necessary to let the service life on a media independent platform. The customer needs to be able to store very different data in different periods of time.


Very often the things that are meaningful for people and that are get inherited for that reason are mementos. Objects that often don‘t have a financial value but are connected to memories. A potential approach for this service is to connect the digital data to a physical object that then can be inherited with a lifelong reflections on someones identity on it.

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3 Concepts


The goal of this weeks presentation was to articulate three possible concepts. Those concepts needed to be considered enough to enable us to choose one of the to develop further and take into next semester. In my research I came to the conclusion that there are two different directions to build a legacy – First, actively collecting (e.g. writing a diary) and passively collecting (sorting things that are already online). Based on that as well as considering the “Design Principles”, “Pain Points” and the “Identity Spaces” I developed 3 concepts. For me, these concepts are a starting point and there will be more in the next couple of days.

Click image above to see the next picture

First concept “The Key Concept”

In this concept the center of the interaction is a key. This key is an object (the form is not defined yet) that enables the user to open his/her legacy and save information to that legacy. With the key a “dropbox”opens in which information can be dropped and saved. I used a key to make sure that the user is seriously considering what information he/she wants to add but also to make sure that this information is entirely private and only the key holder can enter it. To make sure that the user is not only saving information but is also providing context and meaning to future generations I added a time frame: Only once a year the user can enter his/her legacy but can then comment on saved data – this should give an opportunity to reflect on the past year to consider valuable information. A “email to others” button lets the user share a experience with others if wanted.

Click image above to see the next picture

Second concept “The Family Urn”

Influence by the idea around social objects and this related reading I put the family in the center of that concept. I wanted to take under consideration that a persons legacy is not only personal content but also the social interactions between that person and someone else. In my view, the most interesting conservations/interactions are between people that are close (like family, partner, close friends) and can potentially give a very authentic view about someones identity. Based on that thinking I placed a digital urn as an social object in the middle of a family. This urn has a hard disc in it to save shared experiences and provides access to this content so that family members can add context to the things that they experienced together. The user can save all family names and user names as well as social networks and other online applications (like gmail), this data gets linked and matching data gets saved. For example: If a picture gets uploaded at flickr with the name tags of at least two family members, this picture gets saved in the urn. Another example could be mails between two family members. Later family members can add memories to the pictures, mails, conversations.

Click image above to see the next picture

Third concept “Future Message”
With this concept the user is able to send messages to the future. The message is addressed to someone and can be send not now but in the desired time. Personal stories can be send to close friends, the next generation or even to the “future me”.

During my presentation people resonated the most with the third concept – The Future Message. The reason might be that in this idea the human interaction has an emphases. It is also the idea with the most self initiative needed in order to be a successful concept and it dependent on an insightful writing-stile. My prototype showed that the likelihood to stop writing in a regular basis is high (4 of 6 people stopped writing a sentence every second day after about 10 days).

I like the family urn because it shows not only a reflection of an individual but the environment he/she lives in. I think there needs to be more work done in addressing the execution of this concept. It might be crucial to design a object that is more important and meaningful to a family and/or adding additional value by providing a framework in which stories and memories can grow.

The first concept raised concerns regarding the actually object (the key). I think I made it not clear enough that the object is not a usb stick or any other object we know now. I still like the idea: making digital legacy physical. A “key object” might not be the right execution but I will put more thinking in this area.

Next steps and suggestions I got:
1. Meaningful – a major theme in my project. I want to define how data can become meaningful not only for an individual but for future generation. How can stories be preserved and for what purpose?
2. Future proven – I need to make sure that the service/object will work in the future. Improvement by looking 50 years back (what already worked) and a 100 years in the future (what will still work)
3. Media independent – because we have so many object and different medias were all digital data gets saved I want to think about independency
4. What is the role of physical objects? – I think I need to consider if I want to use physical objects to store digital data or physical objects are getting saved digitally (I tend to the first). How can objects become meaningful, how can ownership grow?

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The Denial of Death

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The Twain Phenomenon

Is a life about the legacy? Mark Twain autobiography was published this year and it is not just any book it is a 100 year old one. Twain used a pretty brilliant marketing strategy to manage his brand in order to live for ever: he imposed an century-long embargo on his book. With the result that the non linear written autobiography is sold out. Interestingly Twain planned every single aspect of that book and for example let 3 previous editions be published to ensure that the “Twain reputation” increases. A very interesting example of the issue of planning your life after death and leaving a legacy. (More information can be found here. Thank you Elliott for the link).

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