Our digital legacy will shape our relationship to the past. But how?

June 1, 2012 | By Maria Dias | Creative, Visual Trends

Lately it seems like everyone is talking about chronology, narrative and/or that nostalgia-retro-vintage obsession we’re seeing — everywhere from NASCAR Instagram images to Volkswagen ads.

So we’re grateful we were able to catch up with Richard Banks recently – an Interaction Designer in the Microsoft Research Socio-Digital Systems group, part of the Computer Mediated Living group in the Microsoft Research Cambridge facility. His recent book The Future of Looking Back explores the changing role of memory, technology and images in our digitized lives.

In our most recent issue of The Curve, we asked Banks for his insights into storytelling, visual narrative and curation, and he had some very interesting things to say.


Technology-Connection-Home-Communication-Bonding-Michael Hitoshi-Stone-Getty Images-141477049

(Photo by Michael Hitoshi, Stone/Getty Images 141477049)

“Retweeting to me is a very in-the-moment form of curation,” he said. “That’s what’s interesting about a site like Pinterest is that you make themes and then you start in the moment adding to those themes and hopefully you end up with something that in retrospect is a very interesting set of curations. And I wonder if people will go back to the little collections of images they are putting up on Pinterest and cull some and think, ‘well, this doesn’t belong anymore’ …”

Banks said he and his team are very interested in artifacts like photo albums — the things which people can’t bring themselves to throw away, but don’t want to lose the connection through. His book comes out of that idea, asking people to get the boxes out their lofts and telling the stories of these things which connected them with the past.

“A lot of those things, such as images, are switching to digital rather than physical,” he said. “So there’s the question of, ‘What will legacy mean once a lot of that shift has happened? How do new kinds of digital things like Tweets and Facebook status updates affect a person’s relationship to the past, and the way future generations interpret a person’s life?’ ”

Well… what do you think?

[bra_slider w=650 h=650]Blue Dress-pink tights-instagram-Lori Andrews-flickr-Getty Images-121878579Golden-Gate-Bridge-Tourists-Justin-Sullivan-Getty-Images-145295394NASCAR-Martin-Truex-Jr-NAPA-Auto-Parts-Sprint-Cup-Chris-Graythen-Getty-Images-145545582[/bra_slider]


Images in slider include:

1. Woman in blue dress and pink tights. Photo by Lori Andrews, Flickr Collection/Getty Images, image number 121878579.

2. SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MAY 25:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using the iPhone 4s with Instagram ‘LoFi’ filter)  Tourists pose for a photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge on May 25, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is preparing for the 75th anniversary of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that will be marked with a festival on May 26 – 27 that will feature music, displays of bridge artifacts and art exhibits. The 1.7 mile steel suspension bridge, one of the modern Wonders of the World, opened to traffic on May 27, 1937.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images 145295394)

3. CONCORD, NC – MAY 24:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using the iPhone 4s with Instagram)  Martin Truex Jr. drives the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota through turn four during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images 145545582)

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  • Magnus

    Being able to hand on your digital legacy is becoming more and more important as our lives turn from paper to digital format – what will happen to all your memories on-line, your money held in various on-line sites, its time to start considering your options

  • Richard Deverell

    We definitely need to plan our legacy of recorded memories and to ensure that all the information is given. How annoying is it to see a group photo – a wedding say – and you recognise just one of your ancestors. We believe we can have so much detail in the digital age, but we need to hang on to it to pass it on, and tell future generations what they will want to know.