all over the world. However, it is
unclear whether websites can provide a sense of place and togetherness similar to that of the Poetry
Tree. The significance of the physical nature of this tree is also seen
in the weathering of the poems,
something a website cannot typically emulate.
Kirk and Banks have been
exploring physicality and memorialization using digital technology through the development of
physical, interactive devices that
include digital content related
to a deceased person and are
used to commemorate a life [ 5].
One example is the Timecard, a
touchscreen housed within an aesthetically appealing wooden box.
A family member may interact
with the Timecard by navigating a
chronological timeline and selecting digital images of their loved
one. While this artifact demonstrates the use of digital technology placed in significant places
around a home, it is not too difficult to conceive of ways to extend
these ideas for global audiences.
By installing memorials that use
digital technology, are connected
to the Internet, and are situated in
significant areas such as bushfire-affected towns, we can begin to
explore the benefits of bringing
together locally affected and globally interested audiences in commemorations.
Religious expression can sometimes be seen through prayer and
simple expressions such as “God
bless you all,” frequently scattered
throughout memorial Web pages.
Within an international audience,
there are likely to be a variety of
differing religious customs and
traditions. This gives rise to significant challenges in designing
sensitively for disparate groups. As
We thank those from bushfire-affected
communities who gave their time to
help contribute to this research. They
donate their own time and money
to sensitively commemorate Black
Saturday, and we have seen firsthand
the benefits of these activities for all
an example of symbols and rituals, we witnessed the lighting of
candles at an anniversary service
in a local community. For global
memorialization, virtual candles
can be lit, with each expiring in 48
hours [ 6]. But questions remain as
to whether this type of action is as
meaningful as lighting a physical
candle and whether communities
will enthusiastically adopt such a
practice to commemorate significant events.
The Poetry Tree afforded artistic
expression within one community
we visited. For global memorialization, this opens up opportunities
for online platforms to host large
audiences who create and share
artistic works for commemorations. Crafts, on the other hand,
allow groups to come together and
grieve while creating something of
value for themselves and others,
such as the decorative letterboxes.
In a global context, it is worth
exploring the potential of using
technology to help coordinate
activities of large populations, in
which items of both practical and
commemorative value may be
created for the affected local community.
We have discussed local community memorialization in the
context of the Black Saturday
bushfires. As global populations
continue to experience such
devastating events through the
Internet, there will be a growing
need to provide better ways for
large, distributed audiences to
participate in memorialization.
We believe that current practices
of global memorialization can be
improved through digital technology that considers the opportunities and challenges arising from
place and togetherness; physical
objects; religion, symbols, and
rituals; and arts and crafts.
1. 2009 Victorian bushfires royal commission;
2. the tree project; http://www.treeproject.abavic.
3. the Memory box project; http://www.rav.net.au/
4. Emergence Art on the Move 2011; http://www.
5. Kirk, D. and banks, r. On the design of technol-
ogy heirlooms. Proc. of the International Workshop
on Social Interaction and Mundane Technologies
(cambridge, UK). 2008.
6. Light A candle; http://www.gratefulness.org/
About the Authors
Joji Mori is a ph.D. candidate in
the Interaction Design Group at
the University of Melbourne. He
has recently worked in industry as
an interaction designer and
usability consultant. His research
interest is the role of digital technologies in society,
with a current focus on community memorialization.
Steve Howard has worked in
many areas of HcI, including
usability engineering, user-cen-
tered innovation, and post-usabili-
ty interpretations of user experi-
ence. Howard’s current focus is It
in the wild, specifically mobile and
pervasive computing applied to problems of real
September + October 2011
Martin Gibbs is a senior lecturer in
the Department of Information
Systems at the University of
Melbourne. His current teaching
and research interests lie at the
intersection of science, technolo-
gy studies, and human-computer
interaction and are focused on the sociable use of
© 2011 AcM 1072-5220/11/09 $10.00