Design Research and Documentation

what is it?

REMEMORY is the new interface designed for digital mourning social practice as an attempt to craft an emotional and meaningful interface to give our digital legacy an end. It focuses on the content on Facebook which has more intimacy. Triggering constant reminding and visiting in a respectful and natural way and minimizing the interaction flow are top two challenges.

the principle that I follow

As designers it is important for us to think more holistically about a product and its experience. Polishing pixels is important but an experience which is so great that the design goes unnoticed is even better. 

Design Research

Here you can see how our funeral culture works and how things involved in contribute to the core value of it. Moreover, why "linkage" matters to mourning social practice. Last but not least, from a perspective of cognitive psychology, I claim that the different recognition of our memory changed before and after someone passed away which leads the mourning behavior as the way to balance the lost (not passed) of our memory. 

Here I was visualizing the theory that Elizabeth held in her book Death, Memory and Material Culture. The less linkage that digital object has comes into the opportunity as well as the challenged for my design. 

This graphic show why I think the current platform and service based on web are so unsatisfied and flimsy for mourning practice. Also, it shows the reason why I attempt to minimize the interaction design into only one step.

f course, Facebook is not a good place for mourning since it has never been designed for that purpose. REMEMORY is a better choice for sure :)  


Presentation and Raw Documentation Video is here 

Also, for fabrication and circuit building documentation, please check other posts in this blog. Thank you!

Presentation video and raw documentation video

In presentation video, I speed up the documentation video for saving some time, also it has lower resolution so that some people questioned about the authenticity of the video. So I am posting the original and raw video (it has all the background and environmental sound), which has flipping and clicking sound (I know it sounds amazing). 

Also, if you came to the ITP Spring Show, you probably have already tried it :)

The first video is my edited presentation video.

Here comes the raw documentation video.

Also I am attaching this testing documentation video here too which you which you can see that it has deviations in the first place. Since it's almost 100% handmade (only the time pulley system is not handmade), I'm always having some instances where calibration isn't correct. Calibration and adjusting on both physical (fabrication) and digital (code) sides cost me huge amount of time... 

Final fabrication and circuit building

After finishing the second prototype, in the third and final prototype, I was trying to build the metal inner structure more reliable and more fit to the industrial design that I had sketched. 

  1. Bandsaw the aluminum sheet
  2. sand and polish the edge into the shape desired
  3. drill holes on sheet for fixing steppers and other mechanism onto it

Soldering, I am becoming master at this eventually. I was using stepper motor easy driver and screw terminals for reliability. Also, I was using hall effect sensor and tiny magnet for calibration. I attached hall effect sensor to the aluminum sheet and magnet onto the time-pulley gear. As a result, each digital has four wires from stepper, three wires from sensor, seven in total, which means, for the whole six digits, it's 7*6 = 42. 

In the video below you can see the first working prototype for calibration testing. It started from "B5" board and went back to "B5"  after flipping. 

I put all the circuit and electrical parts in box. Every time when I open it, either is for debuging it or checking which wire is loose... so I called it as my Pandora's Box. 

Start fabrication

Fabrication is a time consuming but a fun part. I felt like find myself back when I was majored in industrial design in college. 

Based on the info that I've mentioned in the last post here, I started with laser cutting and 3D printing. The rotating mechanism is made by acrylic, the flipping board is polypropylene, if you are in NYC, you can get polypropylene here, they sell acrylic too BTW. 

I broke some supporters in the first place since the error of the laser, but it's not happening to everyone.

cut flipping boards. I am showing front side here, on the rare side, there is burn marks and I could not find a way to get rid of it... I am waiting the black polypropylene back in stock

inserting boards into rotating mechanism

Makerbot 3D print time pulley gear, has a really low resolution actually, which is enough for now. Eventually, I am gonna print it in higher resolution. 

pitch: 2.03mm(MXL), belt width: 3mm, bore size: 1/8'' (3.17mm), 

I started building with a composite material, relatively soft but flat. I was using screw to fix two pieces in 90°, however, I end up breaking the material, so I cannot keep it upright. However, through this quick and dirty prototype, I have a better understanding of the dimension of one digit. Also, good to know the distance between stepper motor and the rotating mechanism. 

I glued the stepper motor on the top piece and it dropped off eventually, anyway, never mind, just for testing. 

Next step, trying metal material for more reliable inner structure. I was using aluminum sheet. The first problem I was facing is I could not find the right size standoffs that I need... I checked online, OK, to be honest, there is the right size maybe but it is too expensive... It's just for prototyping, I kept reminding myself like this. I found standoffs in shop in 2'' and 1''... I just got a whim that it's gonna be perfect if I could link them together... "WHY NOT!?" This is what I got after that thinking.

I cut off the top of the screws

rotating it in, and leaving half of it out, you get the picture, which is the way how I make them together, and it's pretty reliable as what I expected. 

using a metal rod piercing the aluminum sheets and rotating mechanism

piecing them together, move on more digits...

It took some time to put all rotating mechanism in since the distance between each digit is kinda precise. I have to polish the rod into a right length to make the structure hold two rods from two sides (each digit has a rod, they are separated.) After assemble them together, the tension of each digital between the aluminum board and rotating mechanism of each digit is different. Luckily I am using time pulley system, so it won't affect a lot. 

Flipping Calendar Sketching and Design

My awesome schoolfellow Tom Arthur has made a flip clock (has 5 digits in total), and he led me a lot of useful resources. Really appreciate it. You can check his website here. Also, other resources include BeachLab maker space in europe, and Tom Lynch's work. 

Initially, I was thinking they look really lovely when its flipping, as what I expected. However, meanwhile, the question that how could I improve that as the need of my project. Even though, they will show date and time similarly, for REMEMORY, since it should be an emotion trigger, the acrylic box does not fit to that purpose anymore for sure. I started sketching and trying to improve the form of it. 

Here is the final illustrations of the design. I leave the bottom part open to highlight the movement of the flipping board. I will build the inner structure (metal) first to link 6 digits together tightly and reliably; then CNC a wooden cover and put it on top of the structure. 

In the first place, I was thinking fixing stepper motor to wooden cover, however, in terms of the convenience of product maintenance, keeping all parts together on inner structure would be more reasonable. 

Design in three views (cell phone slot is on top of it)

perspective view

Reflection towards Facebook New Policy of “Legacy Contact Person”

Today (Feb. 12, 2015), Facebook has launched it’s new policy on users’ digital legacy– “legacy contact”. (check details here) In this post, the most excited part is “Facebook will also provide an option to let legacy contacts download a file containing an account’s photos, posts, and other information.”, which is a thing must happen, I am feeling excited that they are doing what I am expecting to happen in my thesis project.

In fact, people were asking me about the fact that what is my plan to get all these data from Facebook in the past few weeks, and the answer I could provide for now is “No, there is no way for me to do that right now. However, the only way for me to test my concept and project is looking for volunteers to contribute their personal data to my project.” Undoubtedly, this is an urgent issue that has to been figured out as soon as possible.

I even has already had the idea how to solve it in a relatively easy way before Facebook has announced this policy: equally accessing. However, this “equally accessing” is not absolutely. The concept behind it that I have to declare here is “co-creator”.

What is co-creator? Well, In my opinion, most content on Facebook was co-created, like shared pics and comments followed, and the comments here are so critical for the meaningfulness building and changing of this pic. In most cases, “copyright” is ambiguous on Facebook,and just because this ambiguity makes what the Facebook is. It is a place that friends share and spread their feelings and having conversation equally, not a place for up-to-down broadcasting. For example, if you had been tagged in a pic by this deceased, if you want, you should have the limited right to access and dispose this pic, either download it or import this data to another place as you want, by saying limited, you definitely are not entitled to delete it from deceased person’s timeline and more right limitations if it’s necessary.

In a nutshell, in terms of the co-create content, every friend who had been involved in building it should have the co-copyright of it. I would like to believe that this step is a good start and Facebook will beef up their efficiency and enthusiasm towards solving this issue, since I always feel like Facebook is kinda reluctant to spend their energy working on it. They are making fortune from data users keep making everyday and it is critical to give this data a respectful end in terms of benefiting people who had created it.

INTRODUCTION (Key Questions)

This is the documentation place for my thesis project Live in Death (working title). Basically, it is a design project which focuses on new possibility between the rising digital legacy and traditional funeral culture.  

The core problem I am trying to tackle in Live in Death is: Do people need an emotional, mindful and reliable interface (service, or product, etc.) to save and represent our digital legacy, as a part of memento and metaphor, to make it widely accepted by traditional funeral culture, which has always been built based upon material culture? If the answer is yes, how to do it?

As the time goes, I will keep this place updated as my project developed in NYU, ITP. For this introduction, I am going to give you a gist about my project and the research outcomes I have done so far with introducing some key questions. 

Question 1: Why should we deal with digital legacy? What course to follow?

  1. Since digital culture (the Internet culture for instance) has already been a part of contemporary culture, when people who have created it passed away, this cultural heritage should be fell into funeral culture as a token to give it an end.
  2. Look at our history, no matter it is Pyramid or normal person's grave, the motivation behind of creating, inheriting and continuing funeral culture is, first of all, providing an environment for people who are alive for expressing their feeling of missing, honoring and mourning. Moreover, for deceased, extending their former life's influences and relationships is another aspect of the benefit of our funeral culture, which has been tremendously ignored while talking about digital legacy related issues.
  3. The perceived duration of an object — its capacity to endue time and to operate across time by encoding aspects of the past or future in the present moment — is crucial to its memory function. For instance, objects constructed in stone, wax, ivory paper or flowers to represent the body and flesh, have been associated with varying degrees of endurance such that material substances are seen in terms of their particular temporal qualities. —Death, Memory & Material Culture, Elizabeth Hallam & Jenny Hockey     Digital legacy has unique advantage to reaching these goals which is theoretically, it does not have limitation on duration and it has less limitation on time and space too. 

Question 2: How is the current status in this realm?

  1. Academia, law and other institutions and individuals are drawing more attention to the "ownership" of digital legacy. However, they over looked a critical fact that ownership is just the beginning of dying, mourning and remembrance. Further more, only focusing on ownership feels like to be selfish and lack of empathy, because no one is taking deceased's benefit into account. (Please note that I am not saying that ownership is not important toward this issue.)
  2. Existed products on the Internet could be divided into two types: either saving data to their platform or keeping your passwords and pass them to people who has the master password. Also, on Facebook user can "memorialized the page"; user could specify the in advance if Google does not hear from you for few months. However, no matter what kind of service it is, the similarity is that the experience they provide are all based on web (browser, as an interface), which is the point that I am feeling greatly doubtful. Why? I will explain this in the later questions.

Question 3: What is the reasonable way to give digital archive an end? 

As an essential part of social function of our funeral culture, triggering constant visiting is important as the way of extending deceased's relationship. No visiting, no extensibility. If we save digital legacy somewhere and not feed it into funeral culture, what is the point of saving it? They are just cold data as it was when it's been created. 

How to make the digital archive to be accepted by traditional funeral culture? I think the answer should be how to provide the same experience as being in funeral ceremony and its relevant social activities while checking digital content.

However, what is this experience? If you have any experience in your lover's funeral ceremony, think about what you were thinking and experiencing? First of all, Mourner is thinking about all the connections happened before and feeling the disconnections in the meanwhile. The more connections they had, the more stronger feeling of disconnection the mourner will be going through. Also, the experience should be mindful and immersive

So my thesis project will focus on recalling connection to trigger disconnection in a mindful way. The reason why I think the current service which is based on web is not mindful is because opening a browser is distracting. As we know that funeral ceremony and its relevant social practices are one of the most powerful, immersive experience design that human beings have been created, and I do not think that holding same ceremony by opening a browser and signing in a website is feeling right as part of such a highly personal, immersive and solemn manner. How come people want to use this kind of service to mourn their lovers? There is a phenomenon could explain this perfectly: people will visit his/her lover's Facebook page who passed away to leave some comments when some special days come. The feeling behind this scene is "Today is his/her memorial day or anniversary, I am gonna go and check it out.", rather than "I miss him/her so much, I need to check this ( the same as "I miss him/her, I need to go and visit his/her grave yard.")". The subtle difference here is many people are saying it feels weird to visit someone's Facebook page who passed away. However, no one is complaining about feeling weird when visiting graveyard. 

Question 4: Cut back to privacy. 

New issue keep popping up everyday. Rather than traditional personal belongings like letters, material objects, things like digital pictures, video and email might have more containing more private and sensitive content. Simply take deceased person's privacy into account is not enough, the potential abuse to others' privacy who relevant to these digital legacy cannot be over looked, especially when this "others" are still alive

The fragmentariness of digital archive makes it even harder to classify details in it and clarify the ownership of every detail. Further more, as you can see that more and more information has been created socially which means being created collaboratively. It's hard to say that who post it, who owned it. Could this be a case as associated ownership? For instance, if someone has been tagged into this photo, this person should share part of the ownership of this phone, at least, he/she should be entitled to access this photo

Why I am interested in this topic? What inspires me about this idea?

This could be a long story. However, you could get the idea from the pic above. 

I started learning and writing Chinese calligraphy, which is a “Black and White World”, since I was a kid. As growing up, I’ve got interested in the philosophy behind calligraphy, which is the theory of Taoism.

In Taoism, there are two main concepts, which are “Yin Yang” and “Qi”.

For Yin Yang, it is a theory about how to get a balanced relationship between human being and the nature(universe). The nature will keep moving and changing based on the rule of “Dao”. (Human being can never truly recognize what is Dao, let along change it.)The black and white dots represent the Yin and Yang of each other and can transform into the counterpart. Yin and Yang represent every two things are different or even opposite in nature.

“Qi” means the Energy, which makes the reference to the whole world and the foundation of the unity of the world. It is basic source of any tangible an intangible objects, including gods and spirits, as well as humans and ghosts, which significantly affects Chinese funeral culture a lot. The vital essence of Qi is called Jing (genuine energy), which is believed to be necessary to create anything when arranged in certain ways, which affects Chinese design thinking a lot also tremendously affects my design belief too (like the theory of “Feng Shui” and “Exists and Nothingness”).

I made a project called E-Tomb in 2010 and won the reddot design award, best of the best 2010. However, I was holding a product design thinking back then, and I do think that is way from enough in terms of the fact that funeral culture is one the most fascinating experience design that human being have ever created. So I think I need to more focus on crafting that experience via the digital content.

Now I assume you know why I am interested in this topic? I strongly feel like we need to keep our funeral culture up with this digital era