Death and the Internet: The implications of the digital afterlife

Nicola Wright

Abstract


This paper addresses the ways in which our cultural understanding of death is changed by the digital afterlife and the affordances of the Internet. Since the advent of the digital age, we now interact, create and conduct business online leaving a digital footprint that remains even after we die; there is now a growing popular cultural awareness of this and online start–ups have been quick to capitalise on our need to make for provision for our digital assets. Social platforms have allowed for Web memorialisation, emergence of new grieving practices and expansion of traditional mourning rituals, however, there are a number of issues related to digital assets and these online mourning practices. At present, there is no consensus as to how social media company policies on deceased user accounts are handled, an area that is further muddied by legal issues of ownership and privacy. Furthermore user interface design does not currently make provision for the death of users and the social processes around online mourning were found to be complex and at times damaging to the bereaved. The expansion of our digital lives, the end of ‘sequestered death’, new mourning practices and issues associated with these changes, have, this paper argues, expanded, changed, and irreversibly complicated our cultural understanding of death as mediated through the Internet and communication technologies.

Keywords


Digital Death; Digital Afterlife; Social Media; Grieving Practices; Mourning

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i6.4998



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