Human Memory in the Digital Age

  • 2011-06-15
  • Research

Can computers ever completely capture our past experiences? How will we see ourselves and look back on our lives in the future?


Can computers ever completely capture our past experiences? As more and more photos, videos, documents, texts, email and Facebook content is produced, how will we see ourselves and look back on our lives in the future? This talk will look at the fate of human memory in the Digital Age and examine new trends such as life-logging, in which wearable devices allow you to continuously record events in your everyday life. I will argue that these technologies are not capturing memories per se, but rather are capturing data which can trigger memory in different ways. Further I will argue that to understand the relationship between technology and memory, we should turn to the psychology of memory as well as examine how people use digital materials to look back at their lives. I will finish with an exploration of such questions as: How do we manage these vast archives in the future? And, what happens to all of that data when someone dies? Here the focus is not just on the technology, but what all of this will mean into the future, including the social and even ethical issues this raises.


Abigail Sellen is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge in the UK and co-manager of Socio-Digital Systems, an interdisciplinary group with a focus on the human perspective in computing. She joined Microsoft in June 2004 from Hewlett Packard Labs, Bristol and spent six years at HP researching many different kinds of topics ranging from appliance design to web use to mobile technologies. Furthermore she spent seven years at Xerox’s research lab in Cambridge UK (EuroPARC), was cross-appointed to the MRC Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, and was a Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge.

Abigail Sellen has a doctorate in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego where she was supervised by Don Norman. She also has an M.A.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. Abigail has published on many topics, this includes two books, “Video-Mediated Communication” and “The Myth of the Paperless Office”, which won an IEEE award. She holds 23 patents and was recently elected a Fellow of the British Computer Society. In August 2009 she became a Special Professor of Interaction at the University of Nottingham.

Contact person at the TU Vienna

Mag. Reza Rawassizadeh, Phone: +43 (1) 588 01 – 18840


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