Ways to Explore Personal Data After Someone Dies

Image by Kenny Louie

Bill Coberly is a writer whose Father recently died unexpectedly.  He describes some of the issues which arise when a family member has an unplanned death in a recent article he wrote. He discusses many issues encountered after his death but discovers something that puzzles him with regards to preservation. What should he do with all the video game save files on his computer. His Dad was a pretty avid gamer and Bill discovered the data generated by all the games he played on his computer. Among the data was the history of 4,638 hours of play time in Civilization IV.

In his article he ponders what video game save data provides, along with exploring the options presented to him regarding what he could do with the data. His Sister considered loading Dad’s last save game and completing that final game he started. He thinks about a future scenario where he loads his Dad’s games for future children he doesn’t yet have to show them something Grandpa made. He then considers having his Wife, who is a digital media artist, turn the data into a visualization perhaps as an infographic showing metrics and milestones of his game playing. In the end he’s simply torn with the dilemma of whether to keep or delete the data and the significance of either decision.

If you’re a reader of this blog you already know that it focuses on how to preserve our personal data in a way to pass it on to future generations. I was already thinking of ways to provide methods for viewing many common types of data such as photos, videos and documents. I started to think about all the different types of data I save and and after reading Bill’s post it made me think of how we could find many interesting and unique ways to interact with personal data the way he thought about his Dad’s save games. Here’s a few examples I was thinking about regarding how I might interact with data I discovered from someone who had died.

  • Experience the same hikes they did stored in their Runkeeper or MapMyHike data
  • Try their favorite restaurant based on their Yelp or Foursquare check-in data
  • Discover their favorite music based on their their music playback history

Save game data is a little more abstract than the examples above. I too enjoy gaming and have my own share of save game and other related data. It made me think about other types of data we either store now or may in the future and how it similarly may provide ways for us to create beautiful treasure hunts or present unique ways to celebrate the lives of those that are gone. Thanks to Bill for inspiring these new ideas.

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