March 29, 2013

Archiving without the Clutter – We Need Your Help!

Posted in research tagged , , , at 3:02 pm by mariawolters

Archiving our digital life without clutter is a dream for many of us, as we accumulate a steady stream of data, pictures, books, and videos and have to rely on intelligent searching and serendipity to find what they need.

Can we do better than this? A group of European researchers and companies hopes that we can.

I’m looking to interview people via email as part of an EU project, Forget IT (very preliminary home page), that aims to develop intelligent archiving solutions. The premise of the project is that forgetting, far from being a scourge of humankind, is actually useful, because it allows us to remember what’s relevant and filter out what is not so relevant. When we forget something, that doesn’t mean that all traces of it are wiped from our brain. Old memories can resurface in unexpected moments given the right cue.

One of the scenarios we are looking to explore is managing digital photo collections. With the advent of digital cameras and camera phones, the practice of photography has changed. People take more photos in more situations, but how do they store, archive, and access the mass of images? Can we learn tricks from human memory that allow us to ensure that relevant photos are easy to find, while irrelevant photos can be safely forgotten and eventually deleted?

Although there is a lot of scientific research on this topic, some of which I will blog here in the following months, nothing beats hearing from people directly. What should a photo archive that allows intelligent forgetting look like? How would you like to access these photos? What about privacy issues?

If you are interested in taking part in the study, contact me at mariaDOTwoltersATedDOTacDOTuk (replace AT with @, DOT with .). The interview should not take more than an hour of your time all in all. You will be able to respond as and when you like. Participants will receive a “Thank You” eCard for their participation. I am happy to answer any questions about this piece of research either in the comments or via email.

And if you’d like to hear more about the project and the research we’re exploring, watch this space! I may even attempt to explain the difference between back ups and archives.

The Small Print: The interview will take place via my university email account, which is held in the UK. Interview emails will be deleted from my account as soon as they are completed. All email text will be fully anonymised and stored on a secure drive on University of Edinburgh servers before making them accessible to other researchers in the project. The only parts of the original email headers that will be kept will be the date and time emails were sent. You are free to end the interview at any time and withdraw your contributions at any time after the interview has finished.

This study has Ethical Approval from the Psychology Research Ethics Committee, University of Edinburgh, Reference No 145-1213/3. The local principal investigator is Prof Robert Logie, my postdoctoral accomplice is Dr Elaine Niven, and we’re all part of the Human Cognitive Neurosciences group in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. (I’m only partially assimilated; most of my time is still spent at the School of Informatics)

Edited to fix link and Robert Logie’s first name.

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