EMMA: An Embodied Memory Accessory For Personal And Communal Grieving

Maria Elena Margarella, Georgia Tech

Toronto 2021: Storytelling as Relations

Contemporary memorialization typically operates through two mutually exclusive means: digitally (i.e. online tribute walls, social media) and physically (altars, funerals). While both methods provide temporary reprieve, they rarely overlap.

How can we leverage digital and physical affordances to create a memorial experience that is both individual and shared? Moreover, how may that experience manifest in the era of social distancing, when collective grief for the loss of “normal life” coincides with personal grief for loss of loved ones?

As an assembled kit, EMMA is a hybrid system that ties the physical practice of handcrafting to the digital affordances of web interfaces within the context of personal and communal reminiscence. Through a slow-natured, reflective sewing activity, it provides a personalized mourning experience that results in a tangible embodiment of one’s grief as well as an online space for collective, emotional validation. EMMA includes a tracing template, used in traditional English Paper Piecing, that’s connected to a computer via an Arduino. Whenever the tool is used, a touch sensor sends signals to a web interface that visualizes individual touches as colorful flower-like animations, visible to all online. Prioritizing an accessible, low-tech approach, this kit focuses on the making process.

Published: 01/30/2023