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Work Packages

The project’s work packages together comprise an innovative quali-quant approach to synthetic pasts. Through those work packages we build on and expand approaches from different disciplines, combining and testing them to develop new methodological insights at the intersection of Memory Studies, Critical Algorithmic Studies and Digital Heritage.


Synthetic Pasts works creatively across multi-method empirical approaches. The interrelated work packages introduced below underpin an iterative process of analysis and dissemination.

AI generated image of a synthetic past


Social media analysis

Struck by the levels of public reaction and media interest in the launch of MyHeritage's Deep Nostalgia tool, we carried out a close critical study of Deep Nostalgia creations, and discourses circulating around them, shared on X [Twitter] during the two-week period following the launch (n.6935 tweets). We examined how memory is evoked, framed, re-worked and distorted through algorithmic processes, and within social networks in particular, and explored what this tells us about peoples' need to connect with their pasts. This study was published in Convergence.


Platform analysis

From here we have gone on to analyse how a range of platforms design and promote these practices. A corpus of platform policy documents is being quantitatively analysed to identify and cluster value terms. A qualitative content analysis will follow, giving rich insight into how platforms (a) articulate values and (b) understand their responsibilities, in relation to the ethics of memory, digital afterlives, and historical representation. A first output from this work package has been published in Memory, Mind and Media.

AI generated image of a synthetic past
AI generated image of a synthetic past


Media content analysis

Work package 3 involves a systematic content analysis of articles from international English language publications on the subject of synthetic media recreations. We focus on ten high profile case studies, and a total of 823 news reports. These have been sourced via LexisNexis and include newspapers, online publications and magazines/trade press.


User walkthroughs

In this work package we aim to explore the creation of synthetic pasts with members of the general public, artists, AI developers, and museum/heritage professionals. Participants will walk us through the creation of synthetic pasts on a range of platforms, communicating in real time how they feel and experience those processes. This approach - a version of the walkthrough method - has previously been trialed in Media and Digital Heritage research, but has not yet been tested in Memory Studies.

AI generated image of a synthetic past
AI generated image of a synthetic past


Workshops/co-design sprints

Findings from preceding work packages will underpin a series of conversations with stakeholders; museum/archival professionals, creatives, and policy makers. Participants will all be negotiating new values and responsibilities in relation to synthetic pasts, whether their creative work is being reused in this context or they are engaging with generative AI platforms and media in their professional practice. These activities will lead to co-produced guidelines and follow-on activities across the creative and cultural sectors.

Image credits for this page: [1] [2] [3] [4], Wix, 30 Nov 2023, [5] Canva, 30 Nov 2023, prompts by JK_

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