Food for talk: Phototalk and commensality

Kenton O'Hara, John Helmes, Abigail Sellen, Richard Harper, Martin Bhomer, and Elise van den Hoven


Photographic mementos are important signifiers of our personal memories.

Rather than simply passive representations of memories to ‘‘preserve’’

the past, these photos are actively displayed and consumed in

the context of everyday behavior and social practices. Within the context

of these settings, these mementos are invoked in particular ways to

mobilize particular social relations in the present. Taking this perspective,

we explore how photo mementos come to be used in the everyday

social setting of sharing meal. Rather than a simple concern with

nutritional consumption, the shared meal is a social event and important

cultural site in the organization of family and social life with culturally

specific rhythms, norms, rights, and responsibilities. We present

a system—4 Photos—that situates photo mementos within the social

concerns of these settings. The system collates photo mementos from

those attending the meal and displays them at the dining table to be

interacted with by all. Through a real-world deployment of the system,

we explore the social work performed by invoking these personal memory

resources in the context of real-world settings of shared eating. We

highlight particular features of the system that enable this social work to

be achieved.


Publication typeArticle
Published inHuman-Computer Interaction (Special Issue on Personal Memories)
> Publications > Food for talk: Phototalk and commensality