Do all hard drives go to heaven?

I have been preoccupied at the moment with my last assignment for my last class of the semester, the “Criticism” class. The theme for the last topic is “Big Picture”: an issue that is related to interation design (somehow) that has consequences at a large scale. I have decided to research and write about “what happens to your hard drives when you die?”. What happens to my online life, and the life that I have collected on my hard drives, when I am no longer living? There are currently services available today to handle my physical body, and all of my remaining posessions when I die. Why aren’t there more services, or just more thought given, to handle my online life and digital posessions when I die?

It may seem like a strange thought, or a trivial concern, to think about this, but for someone that has collected and created a digital life, it is a big concern. Personally, I have close to 2 terabytes of digital photos and videos stored on redundant mirrored hard drives. I am taking precautions to preserve these files right now, when I’m alive. Why would I stop caring about them when I’m dead? Do they only have value when I’m alive?

Should my Facebook profile remain online when I’m dead, for example? Should it become a memorium to my life and give people the chance to leave messages on my “wall”? Why should I care what my friends have to say? I’m dead. Do my high school classmates want to still receive “Do you know Rob Nero?” friend suggestions on their Facebook newsfeed, when I’m dead?

I don’t have the answer to these questions. But I feel interaction design could offer some suggestions to answering these questions.

My sketch below is from one of my many Muji notebooks that I have used to record my Masters classes. The left side of the line shows a “short” list of the many online items I currently maintain. The right side of the line are the physical things I leave behind when I die. These are can all be digital nowadays. Are they less valuable now because they are digital and now analog? I cherish the handwritten journal photo prints of my Grandma’s, that I took when she passed away. These are physical items that I hope to pass on to future generations of my family. I also hope to pass on my digital photo and video files to future generations of my family too. How can I guarantee that?

Is the answer to just put all my digital files in the cloud of the internet when I die? Then they can be shared by everyone? I would say “no”, especially after researching the energy costs of server farms. (for $1 spent to power server, $1 spent for air conditioning, for $1 spent on hardware of server, up to $0.71 spent on energy for hardware)

It will take new personal responsibilities, and new services to develop, in order to tackle this 21st century dilemma. Digital or analog, we need to think about what will happen, or what we want to happen, to ALL of our posessions when each of us die. The same as you write down the combination of your physical safe at home or store a key to the Bank safe deposit box, you’ll need to write down the password to your email, Facebook, FTP server, Flickr, Twitter, iTunes, and where all your photos and videos are located, so that someone can pick up these pieces of you when you pass away.

  1. No silicon heaven’? Where would all of the calculators go?

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