Digital information as an heirloom


This is my Masters project. We are required to specify, plan, manage, implement and evaluate a self-directed design research.   


Personal Insight


This project started when an unexpected gift came to my door.

Which I photographed every step of unpacking the gift onto my social network page to show that it was from my parents who had never used the Internet before and learnt how to, just to order a gift for their son living abroad. It was truly a memorable moment that I wanted to preserve. What grasped my attention was that the photograph did not attract any comments or likes on my social network page. I realised that something that was immensely meaningful to me was not at all of interest to my friends.

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 20.54.32.png

A week later, I came across an article that said ‘Facebook forces everyone to switch in to Timeline’, I felt that the originality of my personal memory that I wanted to preserve would be lost in time.

Being a custodian of an heirloom, I was inspired to understand the differences between my personal object with its emotional durability and a mundane short lived object. With knowledge of tangible heirlooms, a similar approach to digital life might create longevity for digital assets.

This is how the hypothesis of the project was formed!





By studying analogue heirlooms we learn about the possible necessities relating to digital information as an heirloom.


Why now?


Historical Context

  • In prehistoric times people carved paintings in their caves.

  • Since the Bronze Age people have embedded meaning into tangible mediums like artefacts.

  • Later on, writing and photography became a more dependable method of recording.

  • Their Custodians have preserved the most valuable of these in their original forms. 

Current Context


We are now embracing new kinds of possessions

 People born before 1990, will be the only once to distinguish a world without technology. Increasingly, digital technologies are part of everyday living. We are recording what we do, where we are, whom we are with, what we like in digital forms.

 ‘By the end of 2012 there were 2.4 billion people actively using digital technologies in their everyday life.

The fact that such figures are growing before us means that we are also implicated in this phenomenon. Such data constitutes a rich collection of a person’s traits and their memories.


We are a cloud generation!

Research by University of London on the cloud generation shows - 

• 93% of UK regularly uses cloud-based services.

• Britain possesses £2.3bn worth of digital assets.

• 60% of UK adults consider their digital possessions as potential digital inheritance.


The Problem


Surprisingly, most digital assets cannot be left to our custodians. Our DRM rights restrict handing down of our assets to a username and a password, which is unethical to share.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 11.08.43.png

Click to see immersion  phase of this project.