The Design Concept

In a famous debate regarding the provable advantages of learning and teaching with and without electronic media, Clark and Kozma helped reshape the question of the effects of tools themselves to become the question of what tools make possible when used in groups, in various environments, and together with other tools.  The synergistic effects of any media are greatest when they provide a basis for collaborating, sharing, and thinking together.  Memorable is a software prototype conceived as an individualized tool, but one that is not used by the individual alone.  In early stages of illness, individual sufferers may use the Caretaker's Tools to record personal memories and log photographs of people, places, objects, pets, etc.  Entire conversations between family members are as suitable as individual reminiscences, and the tool may serve as a basis for personal interviews and family memories to be created.  Discussions between caregivers suggest that personal photo albums and favorite songs are among the best therapies, yet these are rarely presented in a structured way and may fail to take advantage of digital media capacities for integrating visual, auditory, and even gestural cues.  I have taken excerpts from some of the most useful caregiver discussions. Check them out here.

How It Works

Be sure to download and run the prototype projector here. The following screenshots and explanations will be necessary to understand how the tool is intended to be used.a screenshot showing photos in a grid

Family members or caregivers may interview the patient, record natural conversations, or record themselves telling stories to the patient.  Microphones can easily be attached to home computers or transferred from analogue recording devices using a male-to-male mini-stereo patch cord.  Photographs that have not been taken digitally, can be scanned at most photomats or with hand scanners costing less than one hundred dollars.  External audio files can be cued up as a sequential playlist, while individual images are imported onto a grid where they can be arranged in any order. 

The Memorable Caregiver's tool provides a grid for arranging photos.  Individual photos can be selected as "cue photos" which interrupt the narrative to prompt the user to identify a particular photo.  Cue photos are constructed with two pieces of audio feedback and a 'distractor' photo.  Since prompting the user to interact with every photograph may not be appropriate. Photos may also be selected as "pointers" to content in the audio track. This is better explained by downloading and running the prototype.

a screen shot showing buttons for audio input

  The process is finished by playing back the audio and synchronizing the animation and display of individual photos to the time stamp of the audio. Time stamps are active in this prototype though I have not yet had time to fix the stutter in the audio that accompanies image animations. Glimpse the work in progress here. The single animation path for images however was a conscious design decision. Though photos do not animate directly to their relative positions on the graph, I thought the regularity of the motion would be less distracting. The prototype is work in progress and the downloadable version linked from this Web site does not include Caregiver's Tools mocked up here.  Media elements that would be external have been embedded in the projector for simpler downloading.

The prototype uses family members as content, but the subject matter could just as easily be kitchen objects, or rooms in the house, though caregivers would need to be given tips on how to arrange images according to concrete categories and avoid abstract presentations such as a bird's eye floor plan.