We have yet to experience a complete lifespan in the Digital Age, from conception to death in old age. Those who have
grown up interacting with digital technology from a very early age are still young, whilst older technology adopters have
identities that pre-date the Digital Age, populated with paper trails of memories. Many citizens have only a limited
awareness of the permanency and consequence of posting in public and extended social circles. Digital posts from student
or teenage years reflecting opinions or behaviour that seemed socially appropriate at that time may not reflect well in future professional life. Digitally mediated interactions produced in life may develop an undesirable perspective if they linger after
physical death. The lifelong digital trails generated through our digitally mediated interactions, including online, echo our
physical lives, but unlike a physical life, the Digital Lifespan can persist indefinitely, and the rich personal context it provides
can be harnessed in ways an individual might not expect or desire.
In this EPSRC-funded research, we will produce unique insights into the digital lifespan of UK citizens both now and in a
future where our young Digital Natives approach adulthoood, become parents, retire, and pass away. To help generate
these insights, we will first chart the unmapped territory of the "Digital Lifespan" as it is now in the UK, exploring the ways in
which virtual and physical aspects of our lives converge, diverge and clash. This chart will be grounded in a series of indepth
studies with UK citizens at four transition points in their lives: approaching adulthood, becoming parents, retiring, and
The chart that we create will guide us as we look into a future where citizens increasingly live out their lives through digitally
mediated interactions. We will explore the implications of this future with individuals, policymakers and industry
representatives. The knowledge and insight developed into issues surrounding ownership and management of citizens'
Digital Lifespans will be used to raise digital literacy. New technologies will be designed and developed which go far
beyond available online tools which bring personal digital content together in one place. Our new technologies will
automatically draw out the personal context of such content, making inferential links and distilling the impressions which
citizens give of themselves through digital media. These distilled impressions will be reflected back to individuals, raising
digital literacy by promoting awareness of the way in which individuals digital identities are (or will in future be) perceived
online over their entire lifespan. Further these novel technologies will equip citizens with ways to manage the impression
that they give.
Beyond individual citizens, our work will inform educators and policymakers, providing a deeper understanding of what it
means to live as a UK citizen in a Digital Age.