Understanding Multi-generational Family Storytelling
Sharing family stories is an integral aspect of how families remember together and build a sense of connection. Yet, when generations in families are separated by large geographic and temporal distances, the everyday taken-for-granted processes of sharing family stories shift from conversational to mediated forms. To inform HCI research and practice in mediating family stories, we contribute an account of the co-constructive intergenerational social practices enacted to co-construct and interpret family stories.
These practices demonstrate the agency of both storytellers and listeners as they work to discover, decipher, and reconstruct family stories. We close by drawing insights from this setting to frame key design challenges for multi-lifespan information systems mediating asynchronous, asymmetric, co-constructive and socially weighted information sharing interactions.
Concept Image by Bernard Palomera and Jasmine Jones
Learning from Family Mysteries
Given the importance and social significance of passing down family stories to each generation, why do important family stories not get told? How should designers of digital family storytelling platforms address missing or incomplete parts of narratives?
Drawing from the results of an interview-based, practice-oriented inquiry, we argue that non-telling should be considered an important and integral part of family storytelling. Our findings show that non-telling is not simply forgetfulness or unwillingness. Non-telling creates space in narrative that allows family members to observe protective and discretionary values essential to the identity-making and relational goals of family storytelling. We also show ways that a person’s reticence is situated and may change over time. In our discussion, we provide design strategies for family storytelling technologies to make room for silence and incorporate the values, purposes, and practices of non-telling.