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Thesis Summary

The large amount of digital data we leave behind can possibly exist for eternity, raising questions of curation, ownership and storage. With “Postgeist” the user is collecting a digital legacy to bequeath material and immaterial things to their family and close friends to create long-lasting memories. The heirs are encouraged to explore those pictures, thoughts and stories through objects, place and time. A digital legacy will be built and becomes a bridge to connect family generations over time.

“Postgeist” is Kristin Gräfe’s thesis concept, created in the MFA in Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

The big question I had coming to this topic was: “What happens to all our digital property when we die?”

On one hand this is, for the first time, a great opportunity for our heirs to truly see who you are, what you did and even what we were thinking. Together, all the digital data provides a reflection of a whole identity. But there are a lot of open question of how this is going to work. First, our heirs will have difficulties to know what data was important and meaningful to us. And even if they are aware, how will they access this data? They need to know where the data is and what the passwords are. And finally, how can they preserve our life stories over a long period of time?

How can we save a digital legacy? The first problem is just getting started. Nobody likes to think about death, even less so when it is the own death. So it is important to create an easy entry point. Second we need to maintain our digital stories on a regular basis and then curate this history to filter the important stories of life. Because only with lasting, curated stories we can create a meaningful legacy for our heirs.

With “Postgeist” I created a service that helps collect a digital legacy to pass on long-lasting memories to family and friends.

The collector builds a history of her own life. She doesn’t start with an “empty page”. Right from the beginning, Postgeist is filled with existing data. She can start curating the legacy from the first day on. By looking one year back a sense of distance is created so that the collector can reflect on her life events. A monthly reminder helps her to grow the legacy, so that it gets better over time.

Through all those meaningful stories she creates a place where memories can be experienced through images, conversations, objects and traces. The keys are physical objects that are important, meaningful mementos chosen by the collector. They can be connected to the whole legacy, parts of the legacy or very personal messages. When it’s time to pass on the legacy the heirs get a notification from the system. This can happen in a number of ways, for example a physical letter or an email that will be send to them. Then, they can access the stories through keys: Heirlooms left for them by the collector that will unlock rich digital data. The whole legacy is preserved in the cloud and can be accessed through a variety of devices. This way, the memories and stories of the collector can accompany the heirs throughout their life.

I see Postgeist as a bridge to connect generations of families over time with which ancestors can be alongside you throughout your life.

Postgeist allows you to travel back in time to relive great memories and the emotions they evoke. It is a place to reflect on your identity through time, people, places and objects.