Vault: A Process of Ritualistic Deletion

Made by Vera Schulz, repstein1, Xin Hui Lim and Travis Chambers

A web extension, Vault, that would allow a visualization of one’s deletion of personal content from their Facebook. This visual and/or sound effect would be something cathartic or satisfying. In addition, the sense of satisfaction (instead of emptiness, from deletion of content) could be further emphasized with a sort of abstraction of the content that was deleted.

Created: February 22nd, 2017

Xin Hui -

Conceptual Design

Young adults are often a little embarrassed about what their 13-year-old self-posted online but often not embarrassed enough to go back and delete this post. Our project aims to give these people the push they need to delete these post. Along the same lines, people often have Facebook friends they have not interacted with in years and like old posts we are trying to push users to either delete or reconnect with these friends. It is easy to forget what is available about yourself online and who you are connected to online. With our project we want to help people better curate what is available on their Facebook page. We proposed to create a web extension that would allow a visualization of one’s processes of "deleting" of personal content from their Facebook. This visual and/or sound effect would be something cathartic or satisfying. In addition, the sense of satisfaction (instead of emptiness, from deletion of content) could be further emphasized with a sort of abstraction of the content that was deleted. 

Underlying Themes: 

  • Ritualistic deletion, loss, digitization of self, meanings, social connections, preservation, identity, loss, social media triggers, tangible actions

Want and Will of Our Project: 

We want to create some sort of system, which includes Facebook, because of the impact that social media has over our daily life and memory. This system would send a (regular) notification asking the user if they want to delete a post they made or unfriend a person who they have not talked with for a long time, making that person reflect in that given moment. The project goal is to trigger feelings and encourage individuals to reflect on their personal digital artifacts, as well as the significance of forgetting friends or posts. It will aim to trigger/unleash feelings of effort, loss, and attachment in the digital world, around the significance of forgetting any given online memory. This potential idea will focus on the significance of forgetting digital memories, and what the implications would be of strengthening or weakening a digital bond. A system that will attempt to address the mass amount of information that matriculates through different social media veins, including the data the user posts. So that the user will have less unexpected surprises or emotions, in a context where the "information" may feel inappropriate and the user may feel vulnerable or deeply emotionally impacted when for example seeing an alarming post. We are working towards not reducing emotions or sensitivity. We, in our project, are trying to create a space (personal outlet) which makes it easier to deal with such emotions, in the event that they appear unexpectedly or just general emotion that are hard to deal with.



  • We created a chrome extension that works to delete selected Facebook content using QuickBlox. Then, we designed the user interface for the data visualization and linked screenshots of it into the chrome extension, to be able to mimic these experience and see what needed to be improved. We wanted to create the simplest design, so that is would be easier to understand, and easy to improve.
  • We then created a fake Facebook user, Evelyn, who would be the protagonist in our user video, and the user who would use Vault in a given social/ day-to-day context. This fake user would also show how our application can help the user let go of a moment or memory over whatever time- frame they need. 

As of now, with Vault, you can: 

[1] Connect to Facebook (with Fake Facebook Profile)

[2] Click to delete desired content or memory

[3] Link to 3 of  the graveyards visualization.

[4] Reflect on your experience and consider if Vault is something you would want to use. Please leave feedback if you use our prototype just below!

Our Prototype from Prottapp:

(The actual working extension can be seen in the video above.)

Software Utilized during the project duration:

  • Prottapp: Simulation of chrome extension interface/ General UI
  • QuickBlox: Database
  • Chrome extension: the form our prototype would take
  • Adobe Illustrator (icons)
  • Facebook API
  • Swift: Make API Calls
  • Adobe Premiere Pro (video)



We were interested in exploring how our experience on social media, in particular, Facebook, could change for the better. We had several ideas to make the deleting and reminiscing process more cathartic, and/or simpler (so as to encourage memory curation).

  •  One of our initial ideas was to create an aesthetic, abstract visualization of the memories that the user chooses to delete. (For example, the color of a few random pixels, or the first letter of every word, could be "mushed" together -- to create a digital art piece that further prompts deletion/curation of content.) After further thought and discussion, considering and weighing the pros and cons of an abstract visualization versus virtual environments that display the memories as they were, we decided to go with the latter (given the timeline and technical feasibility of the Facebook API). Not visually abstracting the memories would also allow the user to revisit the memory if they wanted to in the future (and also move the memories between different vaults if the emotions associated changes). Giving the user more freedom in how they would want to cope with their memories and digital artifacts. Having separate virtual environments for different memories would also allow one to reminisce about some memories without being reminded of others. Creating a temporary safe space, where they can be true to their feelings, and really choose what and how they want to act or express themselves.
We were also thinking in the context of who audience was and what type of memories that would be deleted. We discovered that our current audience is young adults who are tech-savvy and spend a lot of time on Facebook, seeing "checking it" as a part of their daily routine. 

  • Our algorithm would randomly display a memory to the user within the extension, which s/he can choose to drag to one of the three memory graveyards (fire, air, water): the three different types of memories are associated with different emotions and would require different types of disposal. One, for example, would drag an angry memory into the fire (burn), an embarrassing or regretful memory into the balloons (drift), and a sad memory into the water (dissolve). These actions would ideally in the long-term be customized to the user's needs, to make for the best and most immersive cathartic experience. 
  • We used swift and an iPhone as a server that would communicate with Facebook, through the API, and would also save post to Quickblox to be accessed later in the extension. We used swift to make the API calls to Facebook and get back a list of post and we then saved those post to Quickblox, an online Database. We then got those post from Quickblox in the Chrome extension and displayed one of those post for the user to either keep or delete. When the user chose to delete the post, we flagged the post on the database and would then make an API call on the server to delete the post. In future iterations we would move away from using the phone as a server and only use the Chrome extension to make the API calls. 

First Iteration: Our Starting User Flow
Screen shot 2017 02 23 at 7.50.06 am.thumb

Open Questions and Challenges

1) What span of time should the user be given to be able to forget or recover from a certain memory? What are the steps and actions we need to take to make this experience intimate and powerful? What would the steps and actions they take look like? How would they vary?

2) What other ways can make the experience of deleting "cathartic"? Having a shared vault with another individual, to be able to show how a user feels? (Music, sound, visual animation?) How do you know users will react the same way to one image?

3) How often should the user get prompted to review past images or posts? How do we know which posts or images to chose, or should it be randomly assigned? By choosing a lesser known, or old image does it impact the user more strongly or less?

4) Should the memories in each vault be deleted/tampered/abstracted after a certain time? (Perhaps different duration for different emotions?)

Ex: Visual Speculations/ Potential Animations 

  • One of the most important parts of this project was to figure out how to create a visualization that would trigger a user's emotion in a digital ecosystem. How could you make a user feel control or gauge their attachment to digital memories?
- Balloons: Having the ability to have them float away. Letting users "pop" certain balloons. Maybe letting user gather certain balloons? Having different altitudes for balloons and different forms, being deflated/wrinkled/having a hole.

- Fire: Can you kindle the fire, making it stronger more furious?  Changing the characteristics of the fire depending on the memory, and emotions around it. Some fires might have explosions in them for a certain impact. How long the fire burns, epitomizes how long it takes for you to let go of the memory. When does the fire extinguish/ or does it constantly burn?

- Lake: The depth of the lake. The color of the water; if it is murky or clear? How would the user manipulate items in the lake or on the lake's surface if they existed? Should the user be able to add or define what type of items they want to see in their lake? What items may you add to the lake that may replace or strengthen the user's memory? 



  • We learned that the many different types of memories often requires different user interface designs. We also managed to navigate the Facebook API and incorporate QuickBlox into our chrome extension to make a working prototype. During this process we realized how complex and personal the entire process needed to be, and we wondered what it would take for the user to express an "emotional response," which is why we worked with different visualizations.
  • Given more time, we would have enjoyed exploring other ways to portray the deleted data, design of the interface, in the context of when and how the memory is chosen and deleted. For example, one idea we had was to be able to associate emotions of different Facebook posts/photos using a physical tracking device, and maybe abstract the memories before they are presented to the user (so that not as many memories are triggered).
  • We were also planning to incorporate a "drag option" which would give the user the ability to send a picture directly into a selected vault as a part of the deletion process. (This would give the user the ability to tangibly drag a digital memory, and give the digital memory some permanence.) We do not only want to develop this feature, we want to go further! We would like to further develop our visualization and possibly animate them, experimenting with which animation is the most impactful and representative of certain emotions and feelings.  We had several other ideas as well and interaction design idea, when considering this project, but due to our limited time we had to find the best short term, most impactful process. Most importantly we wanted to keep the user interaction open and experiment with different digital experiences to make sure that this project has the least amount of restrictions, to maximize creativity.


Attribution & References

Images for fake Facebook profile:

Precedent Research:

  • Forgive and Forget: Return to Obscurity - Matt Bishop
      • "Design for Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy
      • Effigy -

Our Full Presentation For Reference

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Found In

49-806 Responsive Mobile Environments

· 7 members

This 15-week course will introduce students to responsive mobile environments and encourages them to explores speculative terrains that intersect art, technology and design and space.

Focused on

A web extension, Vault, that would allow a visualization of one’s deletion of personal content from their Facebook. This visual and/or sound effect would be something cathartic or satisfying. In addition, the sense of satisfaction (instead of emptiness, from deletion of content) could be further emphasized with a sort of abstraction of the content that was deleted.