Virtual Tombstone

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I wonder how big our facebook walls will be when we die....

Will it be a lost medium or will it be something that biographers take seriously?

-Paige Saez


Definition

The internet is a place for the creation of identity. Throughout history, the death of an individual has corresponded with a reformulation of their identity. Funerals highlight the positive aspects of someone's life, while unpublished notes, diaries, correspondences, etc., are often aggregated to provide a more intimate and complete picture of the person. With the rise of public digital identities and social networks, this death-identity-reformulation will take on new dimensions that differ from previous forms of media. Often there is a great deal more public information on someone


Who is an expert on the online extensions of presence, post-mortem? Who has known a friend who has died young, that persons social network is a vestige of that person's ability to interact with other technosicial machine-human presence extensions.

While in the airport waiting for a flight, my friend Paige looked at a Facebook through an iPhone mobile app.

"My friend is dead", she suddenly said, and I look over at her phone.

"And this is his Facebook profile".

A beat.

Then, "I suppose it would be politically incorrect to poke him".

Who is an expert on the online extensions of presence, post-mortem? Who has known a friend who has died young, that person’s social network is a vestige of that person's ability to interact with other technosocial machine-human presence extensions.

Digital Wills

Twitter epitaph in hospital. Geolocated. Idea of people testing from operating rooms now. The idea of this a doctors and nurses seeing what people are seeing. Best idea of revenue is opening up a flower shop next to a hospital.

The companies and policies that will fill these spaces will take the forms of digital wills, but there may be other currently unknowable legal ramifications affecting this space. One idea is to entrust next of kin of child to the data, as in a trust or will. But does a daughter want to know that her father had a mistress? Or a wife for that matter? The idea of passing on sensitive information is not new, but some secrets are hidden even in real life.

The idea of data transparency after death is just other one of the questions that we must consider when attempting to construct the future manifestation of the public and private space. The life of the celebrity has been a public one, whereas the life of the Everyman has generally been a more private one. Suddenly, the ability to place any photo or event anywhere represents a slicing up of reality that allows any moment to be colonized and made longer lasting or purposeful. To save moments in this way makes life into something that resembles an actual sport with instant replays , slow motion and consequences for game play. While teams, outcomes and opponents are not always clear - one thing is- on a media centric world -the individual gets the power to play the roles that have been shown to him by television culture. While television culture was one-way in terms of viewing, commercials being one of the only things capable of allowing the viewer to insert the self in place of the advertised, new, personal technologies allow the self to produce their own experience.

Facebook Profiles as Living Tombstone

Recently when someone with a facebook profile passes away their wall functions as a digital homage to that person. People write present tense addresses to the deceased person in this public space, knowing full well that they have passed away and will not be looking at these messages. Tombstones can be difficult to reach in real life, and also expensive. A death on a social network affords a social tombstone that can allow people to browse pictures, look at their accomplishments/friends, write a homage to the person, and generally reminisce, without leaving their seat.

Virtual Funerals

For Funerals Too Far, Mourners Gather on the Web. Webcast funerals can reach more friends and relatives and reflect the fact that people are living more online.

Further Reading

External Links

By Jacqui Cheng | Last updated March 2010 ago

References