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Visual Mementos: Reflecting Memories with Personal Data

This is a completed project.


In this paper we discuss the creation of visual mementos as a new application area for visualization. We define visual mementos as visualizations of personally relevant data for the purpose of reminiscing, and sharing of life experiences. Today more people collect digital information about their life than ever before. The shift from physical to digital archives poses new challenges and opportunities for self-reflection and self-representation. Drawing on research on autobiographical memory and on the role of artifacts in reminiscing, we identified design challenges for visual mementos: mapping data to evoke familiarity, expressing subjectivity, and obscuring sensitive details for sharing. Visual mementos can make use of the known strengths of visualization in revealing patterns to show the familiar instead of the unexpected, and extend representational mappings beyond the objective to include the more subjective. To understand whether people’s subjective views on their past can be reflected in a visual representation, we developed, deployed and studied a technology probe that exemplifies our concept of visual mementos. Our results show how reminiscing has been supported and reveal promising new directions for self-reflection and sharing through visual mementos of personal experiences.