Bringing Up The Past: Interaction Design for Serendipitous Reminiscing.



PhD thesis

PhD Thesis in Interaction Design. Supervised by Elise van den Hoven and Panos Markopoulos. Eindhoven: Eindhoven University of Technology and University of Technology Sydney.


  • van Gennip, D.


  • ISBN: 978-90-386-4500-1
  • Web
  • PDF


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.