Memory Probes: Exploring Retrospective User Experience Through Traces of Use on Cherished Objects
Wenn-Chieh Tsai, Elise van den Hoven


Our daily interactions with objects can not only leave traces of use on the objects but also leave memories in our minds. These human traces on objects are potential cues that can trigger our autobiographical memories and connect us to social networks. The first aim of this paper is to demonstrate what might be a suitable method of inquiry into the way materials can enrich dialogues about remembered experiences derived from human traces left on cherished possessions. The second aim is to investigate how the accumulation of human traces on objects influences people’s remembering and usage. The design of our research artifacts, Memory Probes, was situated in relation to three spectra of paired values: (1) the familiarity and strangeness of tool use, (2) the definiteness and ambiguity of data capture, and (3) the objective and subjective reality of interpretation. Our field study revealed a transactive nature between traces of interaction with possessions and memories in the owners’ minds. It also informed us of how gradual and curiosity-driven understanding could become a methodological nuance when we are empathetically engaged in a collaborative way of knowing with other participants. To conclude, several implications for designing products that can participate in our everyday reminiscing and meaning-making are proposed.

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