Neil Chadborn travelled to Liverpool last week to present the Memory Machine project to the Technology and Ageing special interest group at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology. Take a look at Neil’s slides:
Horizon Research Fellow Dominic Price is currently at DIS 2019, ACM Designing Interactive Systems 2019 in San Diego, California presenting the Memory Machine.
The Memory Machine project aims to create a device that allows for the contextualisation of personal memories (e.g., pictures, videos, music) into a core ’timeline’ of other shared and public multimedia content from various sources. This device (the Memory Machine, or MeMa) can be used a personalised digital souvenir or digital repository for the end-of-life. These artefacts will not only encapsulate rich emotional value in themselves, but offer engaging tools for personal reflection, history education, interventions for dementia care and for accessing cultural heritage.
An overview of the Memory Machine project can be found at on the Horizon website and on the project blog. We have completed the 4 workshops detailed on the project blog and have collected plenty of design material for a potential design of a physical memory machine. We have also completed some preliminary analysis of the workshop data and narrowed the design down to a small number of potentials. We are now at the point where we desire to build a fully functional prototype.
Accordingly, we welcome applications for an internship that will focus on producing designs (in the form of technical diagrams) for one or more Memory Machine prototypes. The successful candidate will work with the project team to produce the required designs.
Applications must be made before the 1st of July 2019 and are assessed on an ongoing basis.
The Internship will run 10 weeks, and is available for successful candidates to start as soon as possible. Please indicate your availability on the application form, where requested.
Accordingly, we welcome applications for an internship that will focus on producing designs (in the form of technical diagrams) for one or more Memory Machine prototypes. The successful candidate will work with the project team to produce the required designs.
Who should apply?
Ideal applicants should be studying for a postgraduate degree in engineering or product design.
- Technical drawing skills.
- Background in design and/or engineering.
Eligibility and financial aspects
This is a full-time internship for 10 weeks. For postgraduate students who receive a stipend from their home university during the internship, a bursary of £300 per week will be available. For postgraduate students who suspend their stipend, a casual wage of £350 per week will be available, and this may be subject to tax deductions depending on the successful candidate’s circumstances.
In general, students from The University of Nottingham are able to apply on the understanding they suspend their stipend, this is due to the nature of the funding source. For overseas students a Visa must be in place, covering the duration of the internship.
Internships will be based at Jubilee Campus, The University of Nottingham (NG7 2TU), and may not be undertaken remotely.
Informal enquiries may be made to Dominic Price, however applications should be made using the weblink below. Applications to this email address will not be accepted.
To apply, please complete the Internships Application Form
Researchers at Nottingham University would like to invite you to the fourth Memory Machine workshop, as part of a series of workshops that explore how new technologies can help us preserve memories that are important for us. You’re welcome regardless of whether or not you attended previous Memory Machine workshops.
Sarah Martindale – media researcher – will lead the interactive and creative workshop which will take place on Thursday 22nd of November, 12.00 – 4.00 pm at the Institute of Mental Health, Jubilee Campus.
Participants will receive a £10 high street shopping voucher as a thank you. Travel expenses to the venue will also be covered with lunch and refreshments provided.
Memory Machine Workshop 3
21st September 2018
Identity and wellbeing
We had a diverse group join us for our third workshop which started with a short walk outside, down to the Raleigh commemoration sculpture:
Landscapes prompt memories, as does the weather – as we found when it started raining! So we rapidly retreated indoors. We discussed local places and community connections and their importance in building a sense of familiarity and identity. One of our participants talked about walking around Nottingham, looking at old buildings, and that seeing a building or street from a particular angle would evoke a memory – perspective and place is so important in our memories. In Nottingham we are lucky to have archives from local industries; Raleigh bikes (the factory stood on the site of our new campus) and Boots pharmaceuticals and toiletries. Participants mentioned that Nottingham is also famous for less healthy products; such as beer and tobacco.
I gave a brief talk about how place is connected with health in many different ways. As well as working life, our home life and communities hold strong memories. We had three groups discussing their memories of place and community. Memories of Trent bridge leather tannery, and streets of small shops including a tattoo parlour!
Rachel Jacobs described some interactive and digital experiences that explored issues of wellbeing and place, as well as interesting interactive public displays and interventions. These included:
- an artist-led meeting under the blossoming cherry tree in a local park by Rachel Jacobs and local artist Frank Abbott http://www.performingthefuture.net/treeview/
- a tombola display information display in a national park
- an interactive installation from the VIVID festival in Sydney
- Wander Anywhere – a mobile location guide for mobile phones developed at the University of Nottingham
- a phone app that triggers films to appear on your phone as you walk past the location where they were filmed by Active Ingredient
- a mobile phone game that tells the story of 100 years of history in Woolwich, London as you wander the streets by Active Ingredient
- sound works in places that tell stories about places by the artist Duncan Speakman
- memory boxes from different eras and about different parts of our lives (e.g. memories of home, work places, sweetshops and children’s games) placed in museums that people can borrow
Rachel talked about how the Memory Machine might be able to link into similar forms of interactive experiences either at home or in familiar places, or areas of local interest so that people could both share and access their memories of these places. She spoke about the value of our memories and how the memories and experiences of older generations can enrich the experience of being in places and help us to understand the history, as well as the present and future of the place where we live and work.
Our three groups then considered how a digital ‘memory machine’ might capture some of these memories about place. One group considered an ‘outdoors Alexa’- a kind of ‘listening post’ where people could record, and share, their own recollections of that place – e.g. a street or a park. This idea grew legs! We discussed how people could meet at one of these posts, and then walk together, discussing memories, and recording them at the next post. With a mechanism to assign this shared recording to your personal account – when you got home you could listen again.
Listening again, or recording from one place, but playing back inside, prompted discussion of sharing with residents of a care home or others who may not be able to get out and about. We thought about how to encourage individuals and families at early stages of dementia to start recording memories, or making notes. We had health and social care practitioners in the group who shared their experience of caring for people, and how prompts and recordings could be useful.
Another group discussed a similar use of the memory machine in a park such as Gedling Country Park, with a listening area where people can sit and hear about the history of the park and colliery that used to be there and share their own memories, and people who can’t get to the park can also take part in the conversation and share experiences of being in the park and their own memories from home or a care centre. They also talked about how we manage difficult memories as well as joyful ones and how you can create the right experience to help people to access different memories in a positive way. The group also talked about the positives and negatives of technology and the internet and how it is affecting younger generations and changing how they communicate with each other – how it can both bring people together, and make people feel isolated.
During the session I learnt a lot about Nottingham from the older members of the group. How black lead was used in the laceworks, which would cause damage to the brain and memories of the workers. I said how lucky we are that we can just type into a websearch any locality or industry and rapidly find some information, pictures or archives. One group had discussed cigarette cards – the Google of their generation! Recalling previous generations, we discussed how statues and stained glass of churches were a way of representing Biblical people and stories when the text was in inaccessible Latin.
Places and industry can prompt painful memories; we should not ignore difficult memories, but be aware of our reactions to these. Overall, we discussed how familiar places are interlinked with and our sense of identity and wellbeing. Neil suggested that many of the topics could be linked to Five Ways to Wellbeing – an evidence base linking activities to health and wellbeing – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.
Raleigh archive: http://www.iworkedatraleigh.com/
John Players archive: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/connectedcommunities/projects/john-player-archive.aspx
Written by Neil Chadborn
Researchers at Nottingham University would like to invite you to the third Memory Machine workshop, as part of a series of workshops (4 in total) that explore how new technologies can help us preserve memories that are important for us.
Led by artist Rachel Jacobs and Research Fellow Neil Chadborn, this workshop will be interactive and creative and we welcome older adults, those caring for people with early onset dementia, historians and tech developers
Participants will receive a £10 and travel expenses to the venue covered and it includes lunch and refreshments. The workshop will take place at the Institute of Mental Health.
Everyone welcome. The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please email Rachel Jacobs to discuss any access requirements.
For the entirety of my adult life, I’ve been studying culture, based on the conviction that media products (however ‘mindless’ and ‘disposable’ many claim them to be) play an incredibly valuable role in all our lives. This is because they are bound up inextricably in our wider experiences of the world, of other people, and in our emotional reality.
It’s easy to identify moments from my own life that illustrate this point. Anaesthetising my teenage anxiety, while I waited to hear if I’d got my University place, by concentrating instead on the characters in a favourite book, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. Escaping to Middle Earth after my PhD examination by watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (extended editions) back-to-back. Euphorically dancing around the flat with my newborn daughter to Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead singing “best of all, I got my baby”.
These formative experiences that stick in my memory are linked to and enriched by the media I consumed in those moments. And perhaps the stickiness of those memories is reinforced every time I encounter that content again. Certainly particular pieces of media trigger particular memories, and that nostalgia can be quite visceral. For example, Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love reimmerses me in another swelteringly hot summer – 2003 – when that hit single seemed to be continuously blasting through the open windows of every vehicle in London.
Lots of amazing, imaginative work is being done to take advantage of the propensity of media to ‘transport us’ in time and space, especially when memories and/or media become harder to access. The WAYBACK is a virtual reality film, funded by £35,000 pledged to a Kickstarter campaign, that recreates Coronation Day 1953 to help those living with Alzheimer’s and their carers recall the conversations, music and atmosphere of a street party. In situations when people’s cultural worlds become restricted, digital apps can also help maintain access to content and all its benefits. Armchair Gallery is developing an app to enable digital access to, and creative interaction with, artworks in collections for those who cannot physically visit them.
What excites me about the Memory Machine idea is imagining an in-home media repository cum player that could automatically connect personally important content (e.g. a pop song) with a period of time (e.g. when you added it to your music collection or listened to it a lot) and with other contemporaneous media (e.g. a film or advert of the time that featured the song). This has the potential to generate multi-layered, multimedia connections between individual and historical context. More than that, a system that could link one person’s cultural experiences with those of people around them would also transcend the artificial limitations we all apply to media on the basis of personal taste. I think it would be wonderful if my daughter could one day, as an adult, get a sense of the love and joy she brings me by being played a pop song from ‘before her time’.
Written by Dr Sarah Martindale
Material objects are undoubtedly powerful conveyors of memory. We need not search too far to find compelling evidence of this phenomenon. Whether personal keepsakes and mementos, or social and cultural artefacts, material objects by their simple presence can trigger, elicit and evoke feelings, associations and memories.
The nature of such objects can be a quite complex picture. On the one hand, there are objects that from the moment on their mental conception are ‘destined’ to become Things of import and notice. For example the Parthenon temple was designed to be a statement, a cultural monument, while the first drawing handed to you by your nephew is going to forever be treasured. On the other hand many objects that are normally unnoticed, or even quite mundane, may suddenly become elevated from mere objects into notable Things of Significance simply by some act, event or association. An ordinary mug gifted by a loved one may forever be cherished and used daily, while the otherwise normal THF134576 bus, which Rosa parks refused to give up her seat in, is nowadays found on display as a historical artefact and icon for an entire movement. Essentially they become Meaningful.
With the above in mind it can be understood that material objects have an ‘existence’ of their own. Being tangible they exist in space and time, and through interactions with people and other objects they can become Things, and more pertinently, can acquire a Record of sorts. On the more ephemeral side, it can be imagined that any object that we interact with in some way, leaves a footprint in our memories: we observe and maybe touch them; we remember facts and stories about them; and sometimes we recount and communicate these stories to others. Sometimes we make detailed documentation and likenesses of them, in writing and in art. Thus these things begin to gain a Record which can serve both as a way of sharing them within and beyond their actual physical existence.
Such records are valuable and often crucial in reconstructing the meaning of things outside of the limitations of oral history. And between the prevalence of museums and cultural heritage organisations, and the popularity of things such as eBay the Antiques Roadshow, it is also reasonable that such Records are often found fascinating by wider – and also very specific – audiences. A very telling example demonstrating this phenomenon was the Significant Objects project. The way they achieved this was to first procure several seemingly worthless objects from auctions and flea markets. They then got authors to endow each object with a detailed fictional backstory and proceeded to place them up for auction on eBay. Just by giving a ‘story’ to these objects their perceived value increased dramatically and they were all auctioned off at values vastly larger than their original purchase price. The intangible sense of Meaning or even Identity that these objects where artificially given was a strong enough catalyst to change each from ordinary clutter to extraordinary artefacts of meaning.
So how does all this relate to the Memory Machine and Mixed Reality Objects? Well, part of the answer lies with the increasingly prevalent Digital Records. The Digital Information age we currently live in revolves around the rapid creation and dissemination of information. Compared with just a few decades ago, the rate by which we can create and consume digital information has increased astronomically, and shows no signs of slowing down. Now this has in itself introduced new and very complex questions and issues, which are going to occupy researchers for the considerable future, but it has also given us more powerful and varied ways of recording and sharing information about the things we care about – and seemingly making that information ‘perfectly everlasting’. For an obvious example, we can now so easily shoot super high resolution pictures, videos and audio of our families, friends, possessions and experiences at any time, off the smallest, most convenient and pervasive devices that reside in our pockets. We can save, duplicate and share that content with anyone around the world instantly. And we can keep doing it non-stop, whether prudent or not.
Just this case has so very many short and long term, direct and knock-on, effects for our personal and social lives. These digital records will never fade. Good or bad, they are here to stay. We in effect can achieve ‘perfect’ recollection, dare I say we could possibly experience ‘total recall’. The faces in the photographs will not fade. The voices in the video and audio recordings will not wear out and become scratchy echoes. We currently may have only had a couple of posed sepia photographs of our great grandparents, which have faded from their original blurry – almost airbrushed – quality. Those few fragments of memory conveyed just enough uncertainty and mystery to excite our imaginations. It will not be the same for the next generations. The children of our children will not have to wonder what we looked and sounded like. They will find out, through the thousands of 4K HD videos that we posted on social media in a narcissism driven need to project and immortalise our ideal selves.
And the same applies to our ‘Things’. Every time we tweet a picture from our road trip, with our family car in the background, we are essentially creating a ‘Digital Footprint’ – in the form of that picture and tweet text – that relates to that particular car. Every time its number plate gets registered somewhere a trace is created. Every time we take that car for an MOT we create a footprint in the form of a certificate and a receipt. We keep these things for different reasons, but we can use all of them to reconstruct a detailed history of that car. What it was, where it was, how we used it, and what it meant to us. And conversely, it can do the same for us, acting as stimuli that remind us of past experiences.
Further complicating this picture, we have technology driven phenomena such as the Internet of Things, which encompass the idea of embedding technology into objects and the environment, most of which in one way or the other create even more data and information about that object and its owners. So now we have cars with on-board sensors such as GPS, tracking everything the vehicle does, for ourselves, our mechanics, and more sinisterly, our insurance brokers.
So between the stories we create and keep about them, and the traces that are captured automatically though pervasive technology, the objects around us are now acquiring ever increasing Digital Records about themselves and us. Several questions should therefore be asked: Is this reasonable? Is it practical? Is it worth it? Is it sustainable? Is it safe?
The answers to most of these questions are going to be – as with most things – somewhere in the middle. It can be strongly argued that digital records are a reality that we have to now deal with. Even if one was to never personally record any such information themselves, other people, systems and environments would most possibly capture traces of them.
Thus awareness and the ability to manage and regulate your information – and that of your objects and environment – becomes a necessity.
Furthermore it bears keeping in mind that the paradigms that we currently have in mind about what can constitute the footprints in a Record will also change. The current obvious examples of text, images, video and audio are defiantly powerful types of content for a Record. But increasingly there are other forms. Vast quantities of data can be aggregated and made sense of and tell stories of our behaviour. Snippets of information that we would normally discount, such as the use of rail and payment cards, location data from our phones, our monthly utility bills and shopping lists can all be used to identity and reconstruct patterns of behaviour with astounding accuracy (or baffling inaccuracy). In addition new forms of imaging technology might very well surpass what we concretely consider as a visual footprint. 3D scanning is becoming an increasingly able and affordable technology that can be used straight off our phones. So what happens when instead of pictures of our children, we have 3D scans of them? What happens when we can then experience those captures in virtual and augmented reality? When we can 3D print copies of cherished things at will, or as has already been attempted, bring them back to life as holograms… ?
So we introduce the idea of Mixed Reality Things – that is objects and identities that can exist in both the material and the digital realms, consisting of the amalgamation of their Records and can be experienced through several different mediums. They are persistent and can effectively and powerfully convey memories and experiences, evoking the feelings, reactions and wonder. The Memory machine can draw upon this concept to and the discourse above attempts to demonstrate that deep consideration must be given when drawing the concepts and goals of the project. We see how both stories and objects are powerful effectors for memory, with one bringing about the other and vice versa. We must consider how stories can be elicited and told around objects. And we must account for the fact that objects can trigger and enable storytelling. Thus to serve its function, the Memory Machine must be able to accommodate these facets.
In the Memory Machine workshops both cases have surfaced, with participants pursuing ways of capturing stories and experiences inside material artefacts, and conversely examining ways of ‘immortalising’ the form and likeness of objects through captures such as images and even 3D scanning and virtual reality, thus enabling new ways of experiencing them.
Projects such as Mixed Reality Storytelling, and the Armchair Gallery have employed such capture and dissemination techniques, and they could be incorporated into the Memory Machine as well, while also enabling the ability to carefully manage the content by retaining control of the authorship and access of the data through platforms such as Chronicle.
Dr Dimitrios Darzentas
Find out more at www.MixedRealityStorytelling.net
Researchers at Nottingham University would like to invite you to the second Memory Machine workshop, as part of a series of workshops (4 in total) that explore how new technologies can help us preserve memories that are important for us.
The workshops will be led by artist Rachel Jacobs and privacy and ethics expert Lachlan Urquhart. These will be interactive and creative and we welcome older adults, those caring for people with early onset dementia, historians and tech developers.
Participants will receive a £10 and travel expenses to the venue covered and it includes lunch and refreshments.
The workshops will take place at the Institute of Mental Health. Everyone welcome. The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please email Rachel Jacobs to discuss any access requirements.
Please register to attend here
Our workshop began with lunch followed by a short introduction from Elvira and Neil. They provided an overview of the Memory Machine project and addressed some myths about dementia. While it is a common perception that dementia is all about loss of memory, dementia affects everyone differently. Some people’s memory may not be affected, on the other hand, they may experience other physical and mental health problems. So we shouldn’t make assumptions that people with dementia will have poor memory. The positive side is that recalling memories can strengthen a person’s sense of identity, and this could help to cope with dementia symptoms.
Accordingly, our project aims to capture not only personal memories but also essence, identity and the indiscernible. Rachel presented a display exploring different tools that help us ‘remember’ in different ways and told stories relating to some of the objects she had bought in, including a box of photos and letters, a drawing of her grandmother, an old Thunderbird Toy and an old 1950’s camera! She talked about some existing digital and online memory tools such as Facebook and Google and addressed how we manage the way social media triggers and presents us with ‘memories’.
Our first activity involved discussing the tools we use to remember things, why we use them, what was special or helpful about them and why do different tools make people feel differently about their memories?
We had been asked to bring along a keepsake that evoked positive memories to the workshop – something we would be happy to share with others and these started some interesting discussions – in particular around why remembering these particular memories are important for our well-being. Our table identified how people collect keepsakes in different ways – one person had ‘collections’ of toys, badges and musical instruments that they nurtured and which were a big part of their lives, whereas another person had keepsakes that were emotionally attached to home, childhood and the people in her life. Everyone agreed their objects produced memories or experiences of nostalgia.
We needed a short refreshment break before getting to task with trying to make a blueprint of what we thought a ‘Memory Machine’ would involve – how to present memories as part of a digital memory machine; would we want analogue memories, such as photographs or letters? What would we do with positive and the negative memories, how would we use these memories now and also in the future? It was a difficult task to think about how a memory machine might work as an actual physical object in terms of ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’, however we had a go and some fascinating ‘blue sky’ models and designs were created. Not a bad output for what was a really enjoyable afternoon!