Designing digital memorials: commemorating the Black Saturday Bushfires
AuthorMori, Joji Cyrus
Computing and Information Systems
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2015 Dr. Joji Cyrus Mori
Digital memorials are novel technologies used for commemorative purposes. There is a growing interest in their design amongst HCI researchers. Existing studies focus on commemorating deceased loved ones, where personal and familial remembrance is emphasised. However, there are fewer examples where digital memorials play a wider social and cultural role. Commemorating a war, terrorist attack, natural disaster or death of somebody of special significance such as a leader or even celebrity, are examples where commemoration extends beyond the personal and familial, and into broader social contexts. In these instances, it is likely that large numbers of people may wish to participate, from those with deeply personal reasons, to others with only a passing interest. This thesis examines the design of digital memorials for use in contexts where these diverse audiences come together in commemoration. This thesis presents three studies, in which commemoration following the Black Saturday bushfires was used as the setting for the research. The fires occurred in 2009 in Victoria, Australia. Asides the devastation caused to the natural environment, there were 173 fatalities and massive destruction caused to homes and other infrastructure. The first study was an exploratory study examining how people commemorated Black Saturday within the first two years after the fires. The findings extend current understandings of commemoration using technology by showing similarities between how people engage with physical and web-based memorials. The second study involved participants in fire-affected communities who were asked to generate design ideas for digital memorials to commemorate Black Saturday. The study contributed a novel craft-based approach to designing technology in the commemorative context. For the third study, a digital memorial was developed that included a website and internet-connected tablet computer app to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the fires. This technology was designed for both those within the fire-affected communities and those outside. The findings report on an evaluation of the experiences of those who engaged with the digital memorial. Selected findings from the three thesis studies are expressed as a set of five design considerations intended for future designers and researchers interested in digital memorials. These are: privacy, control and context collapse; considerations for symbolism and metaphoric representations; utilising physical locations; having sensitivity towards temporal patterns; and, designing for pace and asynchronicity.
Keywordsuser experience; human-computer interaction; interaction design; experience; social computing; digital memorials; Black Saturday; bushfires; commemoration
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