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Department of Computer Science

Technology-driven Human Memory Degradation

Primary supervisor

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Other projects with the same supervisor


  • Competition Funded Project (Students Worldwide)

This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Project description

For centuries, we have used a wide range of technologies, techniques and artefacts to augment our human memory, e.g. storytelling, to-do lists, diaries and photographs. Innovation in digital multimedia has transformed the artefacts that we collect about both our everyday experiences and special occasions. For example, family photograph albums containing generations of carefully posed birth and wedding pictures have been replaced with large-scale un-curated collections of digital images captured in an ad hoc fashion on smartphones and other devices.

Whilst concerns have been raised about digital preservation (i.e. how do we ensure that these new digital artefacts aren't lost or destroyed), there has been limited research effort centred on the changes that new multimedia artefacts are having on our capacity to remember. This PhD would look to address the gap in current research with regard to the role of digital multimedia on one or more aspects of human memory. The project would develop our understanding of how technology may already be changing the way that we remember and look to establish new approaches to prevent technology-driven human memory degradation.

This is a broad programme of research that may be of particular interest to students who want to establish their own personal research agenda within the specified context. Alternatively, you may wish to develop your proposal focussing on one of the following:
1) Understanding how technology can be used to deliberately attenuate one or more forms of memory, and how this might be mitigated;
2) Establishing the effects of novel photo/video capture and presentation on episodic memory, and potential implications for design
3) Exploring how technology cues can be used to deliberately distort one or more forms of memory, and how this might be mitigated;
4) Determining the impact of common design decisions associated with human memory augmentation systems on their users' recall, and establishing the implications for future augmentation systems.

As an example, a possible roadmap for this PhD (based on route 1 above) may look something like:
* Year 1: Through a combination of literature review and rapid experimentation, establish a target mechanism for memory attenuation
* Year 2: Conduct a set of experiments designed to further establish the bounds of the mechanism identified in year 1 (i.e., what parameters are needed for a stronger/weaker effect?). Based on the established bounds, design one or more potential mitigation strategies.
* Year 3: Evaluate the proposed mitigation strategies. Writing of thesis (or alternate format submission) for examination.
The student should expect to publish their work in the form of academic papers at venues such as ACM CHI, PACM IMWUT and the Computers in Human Behavior journal.

This PhD would be attractive to candidates with experience and training in human-computer interaction or other related disciplines (e.g., experimental/cognitive psychology, mobile/pervasive computing). A successful applicant is likely to have demonstrable experience of EITHER experimental design OR software development; they will need to demonstrate both capability and willingness to develop the missing skill.

Person specification

For information


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You must be capable of performing at a very high level.
  • You must have a self-driven interest in uncovering and solving unknown problems and be able to work hard and creatively without constant supervision.


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You will have good time management.
  • You will possess determination (which is often more important than qualifications) although you'll need a good amount of both.


Applicants will be required to address the following.

  • Comment on your transcript/predicted degree marks, outlining both strong and weak points.
  • Discuss your final year Undergraduate project work - and if appropriate your MSc project work.
  • How well does your previous study prepare you for undertaking Postgraduate Research?
  • Why do you believe you are suitable for doing Postgraduate Research?