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Richard Banks, Microsoft: Managing Our Digital Legacies

Microsoft's Richard Banks discusses the complications of information ownership and the transformation of the family heirloom to something more digital at PSFK London

Family heirlooms are beginning to include digital files, in addition to unique, physical objects. Richard Banks, Principal Interaction Designer at Microsoft Research, has begun to grapple with this reality and presented possible future outlets at PSFK CONFERENCE LONDON. The company focuses on social science, performing field research and exploring how technology works to integrate human motivations into everyday life – digital legacies have become a pressing issue.

Banks and his team have created several prototypes, all of which work to archive files posted on popular social media sites. They include the Back-Up Box, which saves tweets and posts them on a screen, a Flickr Presentation Box, which displays a person’s photos, and Timecard, a timeline of a person’s life made from their photos and biographical information.

Banks also discussed the complications of information ownership. First, that a single file posted online becomes a network of files, as comments are added and digital connections are created; what was a single object has become a complicated network. Also a problem is the intent of the file(s) – were they made with the intent of creating content or were they participatory, or even private? All these questions will impact file transfer in the future.

Some highlights from the talk:

  • Digital files provide non-tangible heirlooms which can be preserved in different ways.
  • Constantly upgraded technology makes it difficult to imagine files will be displayed in the future.
  • Some files weren’t created with the intent of showing others.
  • Pictures posted on social network sites complicate matters of ownership.