The 40 Year Old Tweet

Session Title

The 40 Year Old Tweet


Richard Banks, Microsoft Research

Session Type: Presentation

Most entries on Twitter are throwaway. They’re mundane, in the moment, with an expected period of interest of only a few minutes. This is true of much of what we put online. Yet as we grow older, breadcrumb like these, little traces of what we did in the past, will become more and more important as a way of looking back, and reminiscing on our lives. What seems mundane now will likely seem odd and forgotten in the future, and play an important role in triggering our memories. I suspect we’ll want to see, in 30 or 40 years time, what we were motivated enough about in 2009 to Tweet.

There’s a danger, though, that when we get old the services we used to express ourselves, and make records of our interests and activities in the past will either no longer exist, or will have changed beyond recognition. Do you think Twitter will still exist in 2049?

This presentation will talk about the role of the digital objects, products and services we are designing today as they take over from physical things as the primary way we remember our past. What are our responsibilities as designers in making sure not only that people’s lives are preserved for reminiscing, but also that the record of their past can be passed on to their offspring and become part of a family’s history?


Richard Banks is a senior interaction designer for Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK. He’s part of a team that spends most of its time looking at family life, trying to understand the complexities of home, in order to figure out how the digital should fit in appropriately. Richard joined Microsoft (quite a while ago) after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London. Since then he’s worked as a design manager in Seattle on Microsoft’s Office, Windows and MSN products before moving home and into research.