The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Where Do Personal Memories Go?: Studies on Things and Homes in the Ubiquitous Society

Joint Research Coordinator SATO Koji

Reserch Theme List


Contemporary humans live surrounded by a plethora of mass-produced, bulky things. Not only do we use these various things as articles of daily life, but we have also built our personal worlds around possessions in which we have invested a variety of personal memories. Homes have become communication bases mediated by these things. This research seeks to locate individual memories as the most important contents of these things overflowing our homes, while considering the significance and possibilities for memories in contemporary society. In this ubiquitous society we should aim for a society in which the information around us can be readily managed. The question is how the lifestyles of individuals and families will fare at that time. No one yet has a clear image of that future. This research seeks to understand current conditions surrounding things and the location in which these things function, that is, the family. Through spirited debate among those involved, we will search for the direction to take as far as the technologies needed for a people-oriented way of living make possible.

Research Results

We held a total of 17 committee meetings, including five institutional research meetings and one public research meeting on the theme “Where Is Ubiquitous Housing Headed?” The institutional research based on the series from outside lecturers has already been collected in a report. Presentations by joint research members were in tune with the title of this research project about such themes as memories, things, families and IT. Our forecasts for what appear to be mutually unrelated themes are the following:

  • From history to memories: Era trends move from society to the individual. In line with advances in ITC technologies, individuals find that they cannot solve problems within existing social frameworks such as space, history, learning, and knowledge.
  • The contemporary family and memories: Things pile up in homes. The family itself is no longer a societal prerequisite. We searched for how such memories are created to validate the existence of the family.
  • Memories and things: Things become objects in which we emotionally store memories. Consciousness can transform even junk into important items. Things are tools for personal realization.
  • Socialization of memories: mansions filled with junk. When memories invested in things can no longer be brought to consciousness, the things become trash. Designs for the socialization of individual memories.
  • Memories and technologies: Through technological advances individuals can archive a lifetime of memories. If memories are not objects of recollection, they become trash. Technology helps to convert memory into remembrance.