Jason R. Finley

A crowdfunded computer science project byJason R. Finley


Emotions & External Memory

Lab Note #5
Sep 03, 2014

Dear Supporters,
We are in the process of finalizing our first survey study. We want to make sure that the survey would give us enough leads to continue this line of research. Through our discussions we have narrowed down some of the elements we consider to be critical for our study:

  • Are people cognizant of their internal memory capacity (limitations)?
  • Do people realize their need to incorporate external memory aids in their life?
  • When and how do people use external memory aids?
  • What is the emotional impact of loss of external storage of data?
    • Are people aware of the extent of loss?
    • How good/bad are people at data backups?
    • Is there a relationship between backup practices and impact of loss?
    • What are peoples’ predicted reactions to loss vs. actual reactions?

This last topic “emotional impact of loss of external memories” is something we have been pondering upon recently. We have opposite views on how loss of data might affect a person. While Jason is convinced that loss of data should be devastating, Farah believes the impact of loss would depend on how aware a person is about the content lost in the event. We received a good lead on this point from Clive Thompson (http://smarterthanyouthink.net/), who pointed us to the excellent work of Cathy Marshall (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/people/cathymar/ and http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/~marshall/).  She has interviewed people who lost data from storage failures and found that they can display a surprisingly accepting, even relieved, attitude.

            This suggestion is intriguing puzzling to both of us. We both agree that at least some data is critical to all of us. It is possible that we collect a lot of junk over time. But should loss of 90% junk and 10% critical data lead to relief?

            So right now we are considering whether we have a good tool to probe this question of emotional impact of data loss.  One of the questionnaires we are looking into is the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS). It was developed by listing about 40 life events and asking people to estimate the magnitudes of life change caused by those events (Miller & Rahe, 1997). We are considering developing an expansion on this that would include updated events for the information age.

That’s all for now folks! We will keep you updated on our progress. Please do feel free to comment and send suggestions. All your comments and suggestions would be highly appreciated.


Farah & Jason

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