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4: Review – Market Context

The research for the market context is divided into 3 areas: Since it is important for my service to save data in a save, accessible place, I first researched the area of “smart” storage of data. Second, I looked into student and art projects, I wanted to see what poetic solutions to the problem are available. And finally, third services that handle the users digital life after death.

Data Storage

Lifestudio: An external drive that backs up data locally as well as online. Photos, videos, music and files are getting stored online on a “3D wall” with the goal to make the data easily accessible and shareable. The storage comes with an flash drive that auto-syncs to the hard drive.

Dropio: Is comparable to a private blog: the service allows to upload and share files. By creating a so called drop every user can upload files to it and have a real time conversation with invited friends or colleagues about data in the drop. Each drop is private and can be protected with a password. Nice features are conference call numbers, instant messaging with users looking at the “drop” and mobile content upload. Maximum content expiration is one year after last view.

Dropbox: Syncs the files on your computer with an online secure server. This allows the user to save files on one place (online) and access the content from every other computer that has Dropbox installed. A public Dropbox folder allows other users to save, share and edit files. The first 2GB can be used for free, the user can upgrade the account with a monthly fee. Nice Feature: lets you go back in time (to undo changed files).

Student and Art Projects

Presence and Absence: This beautiful kit made by Colm Keller allows couples to increase their long distance relationship. All the objects are made of natural material and are handcrafted. The kit contains two USB drives that are made of wood and can be carved by a knife (also in the kit) and a USB hub.

Here and There: This project from Mimi Son (Hyunjeong Son) enables the user to store daily stories, like a digital diary, but also lets you secretly share the stories with only one other person. An object allows to switch between “Here” (the own story box) and “There” (browsing the partners diary).

Digital Remains: Michele Gauler assumes that the personal data gets stored on a network. A physical object with bluethooth connection let the heirs access the data after the user dies.

Carbon Copies: According to Nadine Javis 250 pencils can be made from an average body of ash. Each pencil has the name of the person on it and the heirs can sharpen the pencil back in the box. Over time the box fills with the new sharpening ash and transforms into an urn.

The Digital Life after Death

This research is based on an article that appeared in My Life Scoop on October 4, 2010 and on Digital Beyonds growing list of online services1.

The first service group lets the user make a will for all the digital assets they own. Those are very useful and practical services, although I miss something like personal stories that have no material value but have priceless value through memories.

Entrustet: Is a free service that lets the user pass on digital assets to 10 designated heirs and one executer. The executer is in charge of informing the service in case of the decease of a user. Then the digital assets like domains, financial accounts, blogs, e-mails and social networks will be passed on.

Asset Lock: A service for mass storage of important information, like financials, estate planning, insurance policies account, passwords, emails and final wishes. This is a very customizable service, where the user can decide on the amount of executers, time delay between death and unlocking the account or the letters you want to send after death.

The second grub are single task services, which are handling only one thing and are very specific.

Webwill: A trusted person can change or transfer the users online social accounts. This service can be used for example for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumblr or YouTube. The user chooses a desired setting for each account (e.g delete, save etc.) and two trusted verifiers who will confirm the death.

Legacy: This site offers online “Legacy Memorial Websites”, “Obituaries” and “Guest Books”. Users of this service are people that want support in case of bereavement.

The last group is also specific in the sense of providing high intangible value to their customers

if i di: One of many services that allow to send messages and emails to loved ones in the future. The user can schedule messages up to 50 years in advance or send messages after passing away.

1000Memories: Is a memorial website that collects photos, videos and stories of the deceased. The site invitees family and friends of the deceased to collect stories and memories.

The Voice Library: This service records, saves and shares verbally told stories. The service can be used by phone or online and the stories will be saved for future generations.

Findings

I found over 20 different services that handle the users data after death. What I was missing though is a service that celebrates being alive. Thinking about death is hard enough and I am interested in creating a service that allows the user to curate, add and save data while still being alive. I want to design the digital equivalent to the physical shoebox. The secret box in the back of the closet with the small mementos that are meaningful and important because of its unspoken memories, rituals and histories. The design service has the goal to provide a place were the user can save all these memories and stories so that the heirs can re-experience it. It should be a poetic, meaningful service to store data over a long period of time.

  1. “Digital Death and Afterlife Online Services List”, The Digital Beyond Blog, constantly updated, accessed April 27, 2011, http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list/ []