Bringing Up The Past

Interaction Design for Serendipitous Reminiscing

Project is active (PhD 2013-2018, Postdoc 2018-2019)

People reminisce to entertain themselves, to connect with others, and to increase self-awareness. Photographs have proven a great resource to support reminiscing. However, with a move towards digital capture and storage, people have more photos that end up undervalued and underused. This thesis explores how interaction design can support reminiscing in everyday life, in particular through the use of digital photos. We focus on serendipitous reminiscing: the casual recollection and reliving of past experiences, brought about by chance encounters with things that remind of one’s past. These encounters are easily afforded to physical things but not to digital photos.

Based on a diary study on involuntary reminiscing, a repertory grid study on remembering as experience, and two research-through-design studies on interactive photo displays, this thesis explores how people relate to memory cues in everyday life. We confirm that encounters with personal media and other things that remind one of one’s past are welcome, and that the value of photo displays stems from making photos present in everyday life (rather than their interactive features). The findings contribute to design research by furthering the understanding of remembering as experience and the development of several novel concepts that facilitate serendipitous reminiscing.

Videos and images

Who are involved


  • Materialising Memories group
    Faculty of Engineering and IT
    University of Technology Sydney

    Building 11, Level 7, Room 217
    81-115 Broadway (postal address: PO Box 123)
    Broadway NSW 2007

    +61 (0)2 9514 8967

Data and other documents