Memory Machine Workshop 2 – 15th June, 12.00-4.00 pm

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

Memory and Well-being – Workshop 1

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!

 

 

Register to attend Memory Machine workshops

The Memory Machine project team would like to invite you to a series of workshops (4 in total) to explore how new technologies can help us preserve memories that are important for us.

The workshops will be led by artist Rachel Jacobs and dementia expert Neil Chadborn. 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. The workshops will take place at the Institute of Mental Health.

The first workshop takes place on Friday 27th of April at the Institute of Mental Health, Innovation park, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham.

Please register to attend via Eventbrite

My Memory Machine

A collection of filing boxes with a post-it note that reads "Dominic's little bits from the past"

In one of those odd cases of Universal synchronicity, as I was struggling to write a blog about memory, my parents arrived the weekend just gone, bearing boxes of my ‘childhood memories’ that they had been saving for me and now wanted me to go through. As I write this blog, those boxes sit next to me on the desk, unopened. I expect for many people their immediate reaction would have been to dive straight in and revel in the nostalgia. For me though, my approach to memory seems to be much more about caution. I’m wary of what emotions a memory might trigger, will I be embarrassed? will I feel sad? Chances are that the feelings evoked will be pleasant ones but I prefer to be in control, to stabilise myself beforehand and to look through when I feel ready. It could be weeks before I get around to going through the boxes.

Although I suspect that this may be the minority approach to memory, I also suspect that it is far from uncommon. In relating my own personal perspective on memory to the Memory Machine, I can see that technology is increasingly becoming an important gatekeeper to memory. Take for example social media platforms such as Facebook, so much of our daily lives are now being stored on these; and these platforms are also taking advantage of these memories, a common feature is to highlight an ‘on this day’ memory. Yet, not always are these memories wanted, a reminder of a bereavement or break-up are quite common; not all memories are equal, they can be important whilst still being negative. It will be interesting in the Memory Machine workshops, and the development of the technology, to see these tensions discussed and see the role that technology can play in safeguarding both memory and an individual’s emotional state.

Dominic Price, Research Fellow, Horizon Digital Economy Research

The Memory Machine – would you like to participate in our project?

Save the date: Friday 27th April from 12:00 until 16:00, lunch and refreshments included.

Researchers at the University Nottingham would like to invite you to the first of a series of workshops (4 in total during 2018), to explore how new technologies can help us preserve memories that are important for us.

The workshops will be led by artist Rachel Jacobs and dementia expert Neil Chadbord. These will be interactive and creative and we welcome older adults, those caring for people in the early stages of dementia, historians and tech developers.

Participants will receive a £10 voucher and travel expenses to the venue covered. The workshops will take place at the Institute of Mental Health. Everyone welcome.

Please register your interest with Associate Professor Elvira Perez

More information on the Memory Machine project can be found here.

The Memory Machine

When I think about the Memory Machine, I often imagine an idyllic and comforting situation. I see my dad sat on a comfortable sofa with my two daughters beside him. They are watching what it looks like an old fashioned and magical television able to blend the past with the present, personal memories with archived facts. The Memory Machine has been set to go back in time to 1950 to portray my dad as an eight year old boy growing in Spain, a country devastated by the Civil War. A black and white picture appears. It is my dad as young boy with an unusual hair style, a forced smile, and dusty shoes. ‘Is that you?’ asks one of my daughters. His handmade clothes are full of meaning and information. The picture’s background reveals his village in Cordoba, Andalusia. The pavement is made of cobblestones and you can see mules in the background. My dad starts talking about his childhood, the trips to the market, happy memories and funny anecdotes that contrast with the inherited sadness contained in the picture. Next, there is music in the background, a classic Spanish Pasodoble, with bullfighting footage but this does not go really well among my vegetarian daughters and the ‘next’ button gets clicked on a hurry. Images fade to present archived material from an exhibition supported by the Heritage Lottery showing children arriving to Southampton by boat. These are some of the children exiled in 1937. Well recorded and preserved memories triggering a new wave of questions.  I witness a learning conversation, a heritage acknowledgment, a connection with the past, an appreciation of the present.

My dad sadly died three years ago, leaving behind few scattered photographs and random video footage. While I will not experience the idyllic situation I have just described, maybe one day in the near future, I fantasise being on a comfortable sofa surrounded by my grandchildren. I will show them images of the 80’s and we will laugh at the dresses I had to wear, the Pop music I used to love and together we will build new memories.

I am confident about the Memory Machine becoming the most popular Christmas gift in 2020. And to succeed on our rather ambition mission, we are currently engaging with those whose precious memories are fading. We are partnering with people with early symptoms of dementia, their cares and friends, with dementia care home managers and other end-users to ensure that the Memory Machine is designed for them and with them. During this user-centric design process we are also involving historians, media experts and companies like British Pathe or BBC to provide insights on access and curation of archived material. HCI researchers, artists and developers are taking into account all the user’s requirements needed to ensure that the Memory Machine is technically sound and users can easily upload personal data while linking it to factual information. IT Law also plays an important role in the proposed architecture and we will consider carefully the larger ethical implications including post mortem privacy, succession of digital memories and issues linked to the Right to Be Forgotten.

A first prototype will soon be co-developed in the context of memory loss as a health application in dementia care. An initial workshop will take place at the Institute of Mental Health in April (contact me if you would like to participate: Elvira.Perez@Nottingham.ac.uk). Once we have a Memory Machine that actually works, we will consider other contexts including end-of-life repository or digital souvenirs.

This is a product I would want for myself, a factory for idyllic and comforting moments.

Elvira Perez, Associate Professor of Digital Technology and Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences