Visual Mementos


Today more people collect digital information about their life than ever before. These digital archives are staring to replace traditional physical mementos such as photo albums and other keepsakes. The shift from physical to digital archives poses new challenges and opportunities for self-reflection and self-representation.

In this project, we explore how visualizations of personal data can become cherished visual mementos. Such visual mementos can be used for personal reminiscing and for sharing life experiences with others. To guide the design of visual mementos we have identified central design challenges: evoking familiarity, expressing subjectivity, and obscuring sensitive details for sharing.

We further developed an application “visits” that exemplifies our design concept. “Visits” is based on personal movement data and allows reminiscing and sharing travel memories with loved ones. It allows people to load their own personal GPS histories and displays them as circles showing a sequence of visited places on a timeline. The application further allows people to enrich their movement histories with geotagged photographs. After a memento is created in the application it can be shared. When sharing, the data owner can choose the level of detail that is revealed when sharing the memento online.

To understand if our design was successful, we studied “visits” for seven months on the web and collected participant feedback and usage details. Our results show that people used the application for reminiscing on various personal histories. Findings further reveal promising new directions for self-reflection and sharing through visual mementos of personal experiences.