Janet X. Chen

HCI & UX Researcher

What Happens to Data after Death?

Janet Chen / 2021-05-01

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Digital data has become a key part of everyday life: people manage increasingly large and disparate collections of photos, documents, media, etc. But what happens after death? How can users select and prepare what data to leave behind before their eventual death? To explore how to support users, we first ran an ideation workshop to generate design ideas; then, we created a design workbook with 12 speculative concepts that explore diverging approaches and perspectives. We elicited reactions to the concepts from 20 participants (18-81, varied occupations). We found that participants anticipated different types of motivation at different life stages, wished for tools to feel personal and intimate, and preferred individual control on their post-death self-representation. They also found comprehensive data replicas creepy and saw smart assistants as potential aides for suggesting meaningful data. Based on the results, we discuss key directions for designing more personalized and respectful death-preparation tools.

5 minute video presentation

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