Social and technological influences on engagement with personal memory objects: a media roles perspective

Tim Fawns, Hamish Macleod, Ethel Quayle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The same roles adopted by people involved in mass media enterprises, such as producers or distributors of feature films, are involved in practices surrounding personal memory artefacts such as photographs, home videos or diary entries. When the social context of such practices changes, these roles are renegotiated in relation to the people with whom we communicate and the tools we use to help us. A pilot study combined an analysis of sets of photographs taken by different participants at the same event – a wedding – with interviews that explored the phenomenological experience of engaging in memory practices connected to these photo sets. Focusing on personal photography, seven media roles were selected as a framework for examining changes in artefact-related memory practices due to shifting socio-cultural contexts and technological affordances. These roles – Creator, Director, Archivist, Gatekeeper, Distributor, Consumer and Critic – were found to be useful in highlighting individual differences in capturing, organising, reviewing and sharing photographs amongst people with varying technological engagement in varying social groupings. Preliminary findings suggest that technological affordances and constraints can change the social and cultural context of communication as well as personal goals of media production and consumption. Different media tools create subjective triggers and barriers for the adoption of roles, making some processes of media production or consumption easier or more accessible to certain types of people while other processes may become more complex or culturally inappropriate. These triggers and barriers, in combination with a continuous reconfiguration of related cultural norms, affect the adoption of roles and these roles directly affect engagement with memory artefacts. This paper forms part of a larger project that aims to explore how our changing engagement with technology is affecting our individual and collective memory practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemembering Digitally
EditorsSegah Sak
PublisherThe Inter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84888-129-7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • digital photography
  • media roles
  • memory


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