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A New Project Launched in the UK Today: Digital Remains

On May 20th 2014, Mórna O Connor, an Irish colleague and a friend, sent me an intriguing proposition: to take part in developing an RLO - a Reusable Learning Object - dedicated to Digital Remains. 

Thanks to Morna's hard work the RLO is now online. It launched today, March 2nd 2016, which marks five years since my brother, Tal Shavit, was killed, and is dedicated to his memory.

Q:  What is this? 

"The resource is a Reusable Learning Object (RLO) that’s freely available online. It is a short interactive resource about what can be left digitally after death, how this can impact on the bereaved and what we, as members of the public and providers of health services, can do to better deal with this issue".
Q: How did it come into being? 

"The resource evolved from consultations with bereavement care staff about the role of technology in modern bereavement and grief. These care workers were uncertain about what can be left digitally after a death, why this differs from physical remains, how it impacts the bereaved, and what we can do about this issue. So, we invited these bereavement care professionals to participate, along with you, death studies academics from The Sue Ryder Centre and technology developers from HELM to create a resource that gives an introduction to these ideas and raises awareness about the modern experience of bereavement and grief.  We think it will be helpful for anyone who works with bereaved people and those at the end of life, and of course for members of the public. We all need to become more aware of the range and implications of what we leave behind digitally after death. We hope this RLO will be a step toward doing this". 

Mórna O Connor researches death, dying and bereavement and the role of technology in health. She has just begun a PhD exploring the digital-age experience of bereavement.She is part of both The Sue Ryder Care Centre for the Study of Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Care and Health E-Learning Media (HELM) research groups at the School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. And she is also the narrator of the RLO! 

I have to say I envy her for having partners in the UK to collaborate with on such a project - just as I envy James Norris for having partners in the UK to collaborate with on his project (Digital Legacy Association: websiteFacebook page).  I wish and hope I shall find partners for such collaborations in Israel too. 

I know that in both cases, even with their partners, neither of these two projects would have come into being without their leadership, vision, hard work and dedication, and I am very grateful I got to play a part, however small, in them both.

Please feel free to share the RLO with friends, family members and professionals working in counseling, end of life support, palliative care etc. 

Thank you Morna for the terrific work you've done and doing, for helping to not only raise awareness to these important issues but for creating actual tools to be used in this regard, and for pulling through through all the technological obstacles you faced while accomplishing this. 


Be Kind: Backup

Someone you care about is grieving? You wish to be helpful and don't know how? I have an idea for you: tell them to backup. 

Backup? What do you mean "backup"? Do you think now is the right time to mention such a thing to the bereaved? 

Yes, I do: backing up videos, photos, texts and memories related to the deceased could be a very big - and very practical, meaningful and helpful - act of kindness. And not a moment too soon, too. 

The following stories are all in Hebrew and from Israel, but I believe the story is a universal one (and would appreciate receiving relevant links and print screens in other languages): 

2016. Anat Dolev passes away. Her son begs for help retrieving her stolen smartphone with the last pictures of her on it. 

 Facebook printscreen

Facebook printscreen

2015. Idan Shacham begs for help retrieving the stolen smartphone of Hodaya Goren. On it were pictures and memories of their recently deceased mutual friend Bar Shavit, who died a few months earlier.  

Facebook printscreen
(Link no longer available)

2014. Myriam Safrai begs for help retrieving her stolen smartphone. It contained un-backed up pictures of Muli, her five years old son, who passed away three weeks earlier. 

Facebook printscreen

2013. Roni Lahav - Vidra begs for help retrieving her stolen ipad. It contained un-backed up videos of her late husband, Yuval Vidra, with their baby boy Idan.

Facebook printscreen

2013. Tzach Cohen begs for help retrieving the stolen smartphone of his sister, Noy. It was stolen shortly after her death. 

Facebook printscreen

2005. Haim Avraham begs for help retrieving his stolen computer. On it were un-backed up memories and pictures of his dead son, Benny.

ynet printcsreen

This is why telling grieving people to backup could be such an act of kindness. Because pictures, videos, texts and memories might be lost irretrievably, if they are only on a single device which might get stolen or broken - smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer. Do it gently, but do it: suggest that they back up as much as possible to cloud storing and/or a portable, external hard drive. If you really wanna be helpful bring all the necessary cables along and find out for them how could it be done with their specific device/s and/or operating system/s. Don't expect them to think about it themselves - they are grieving. This is what you, as someone who cares about them and wishes to assist and support them during this difficult time, could be there for. 

When a tragedy occurs there is so much pain we can't do anything about and we can't ease. Let's at least ease up where we can and make sure the materials memories are made of are well kept. 

This is also why I say therapists, psychologists, social workers and other professionals and volunteers who support bereaved people should be trained in digital matters as well: to make sure there is someone there to tell grieving people to backup, and now


Thank You

The end of the year is a wonderful opportunity to say THANK YOU - or in my case: Thank Yous. 
A previous version of "Thank You" from an earlier stage of the blog can be found here

This list consists of people who have helped me (in regards to the blog) during the past year. It includes people from Israel, UK, USA, Germany, Finland and Denmark, who helped by emails, phone, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and face-to-face, and are readers of the blog, family members, friends, strangers and strangers who became friends. 

It does not include the people who tag me when they come across something relevant or send me links they know I'll be interested in, as (luckily for me), they are too numerous to mention in name. 

It does include the people who once / several times / on a regular basis help me, in a generous, dedicated manner, in many various ways: from advise, proof reading, language checking, editing, video editing, translating from English to Hebrew, translating from Hebrew to English, translating from Danish to Hebrew, making phone calls in Danish, rewriting, searching for data, searching for data in French, giving feedback, inviting to give paid for talks, lectures and lessons, introducing me to relevant people, graphic design, makeup, recommendations, lending equipment, filming video, analising statistic results, legal advice - to helping with the code of the blog and recording an audio track in a studio. 

Thank you to those who help when I ask and to those who help before I even get the chance to ask. 

Thank you to those who help right now, because this is when I need it: this instance

Thank you to those who initiate a cooperation with me, to those who say "yes" when I invite them to cooperate with me, to those who attend the meetings I initiate and to those who help me, or at least try to help me, make the changes I wanna make. 

Thank you to those who make me laugh when they not only assist me free of charge, they also apologize for not doing it sooner / quicker :) . 

Thank you to those who even on those rare occasion in which I do try to pay them for they work, refuse to charge me for their professional assistance. 

Thank you to those who support me in times of crises or meltdowns, thank you to those who support, encourage, appreciate, to those who help "spread the word" of what I'm doing / saying, the blog and the Facebook page of it. 

This isn't something I take for granted, I'm very grateful, thankful and appreciative, and to put it simply and honestly - I couldn't do what I do without them (In first name alphabetical order, simply cause I needed to sort this out somehow): 

Amir Cahane, Amir Shemesh, Anat Gelb-Price, Anu Harju, Asaf Abir, Aviad Dayan, Carmel Vaisman, Daniel Alfon, Daniel Landau‏, Dor Nachman, Dvorit Shargal, Elad Raz, Eleanor Kantor, Frankie Simon, Gali Halpern Wienerman, Galit Rubinstein, Gili Meisler, Hagai GinzboorgHila Tsairi, Ido Kenan, Ilan Shadai, Inbal Lottem, Inbal Saggiv-Nakdimon‏, Jakob Sabra, James Norris‏, Jonathan J. Klinger, Joseph Catran, Katrin Döveling, Keren Elazari, Korina Giaxoglou, Lior Zalmanson, Ma'ayan Alexander, Matan Melamed, Meirav Darzi Meiri, MeyTal Greiver-Schwartz, Michael Diamond, Mórna O Connor, Motti Shimoni, Moran Leshem Bar, Nimrod Benzoor, Nir Yaniv, Oded Yaron, Omer Levy, Or Meidan, Paul Solomon‏, Rachel (Berman) Madar, Rinat Korbet, Ronit Lavy‏, Selina Ellis Gray, Shimon Peretz, Shiri Yeshua, Shmuel Loutaty, Stacey Pitsillides, Tal Bitton, Tal GuttmanTzach Ben-Yehuda,‏ Uri Gonda, Yael Gaaton, Yossi Glazer.

A special thank you goes to my parents, Maya and Eli Shavit. Without their significant support - including a substantial financial one - I could not have devoted myself to what I do the way I have these past few years. 

I even thank the handful of people tho refuse to meet me, who don't appreciate me or what I do (for lack of a degree or for not being part of the academia, for example), who refuse to help me - because by doing so they only make all those who do support, assist, encourage and appreciate stand out even more. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to say something personal 

I disagree with phrases such as "Everything happens for a reason" or "There is good in everything". No: some things happen for no reason what so ever, like a driver who acts recklessly on the road and kills my brother, and there isn't, there hasn't been, there won't be and there could never be anything good in or about my brother's death. 
There are some good things that happen or can happen despite him being dead. Not following his death, not in consequence of his death - despite his death. And the people who help me along the way are one of those good things. 

The last Thank You in this list goes to Tal: a unique, vibrant, unusual and unforgettable character, who touches/d and affects/ed so many lives during his life - and after his death, that hardly a talk of mine goes by without eyes in the audience "light up" as I mention him, or people nodding their heads when I talk about him, or someone doesn't come over afterwards to tell me about that time they met him / spoke to him / read what he wrote. And hardly a meeting goes by without there turning out to be a direct or indirect link to him. People help me in my own right, true, but many help me in his right. 

Tal in a picture taken by Colin Ritchie

As you know, I didn't plan any of this. It just came into being. And I now have a job (and yes, it's a full time job and no, I don't make a living out of it yet and yes, you can help) which causes me to cry a lot, both because of the content I come across and because of my personal pain, and it's a job that makes me wonder from time to time if I'm crazy for doing it, and it's a job that makes me edgy whenever I see I was tagged somewhere in Facebook because I don't know if I was tagged in an adorable cats video or because someone had died. It's an odd thing to go through, whenever you see yourself tagged, wondering if someone had died. And I have a job which allows for many options to present themselves in Facebook when I look for either "Death" or "Digital": 

This job also fascinates me, it sometimes makes me go to sleep in the small hours of the night because an update arrived and I feel I have to write a post about it right now, a job that makes me check my email curiously in the morning because who knows what interesting updates arrived while I was asleep, a job that makes me feel I'm doing something important and significant and that I'm helping people through what I do - and it's dedicated to Tal. And along with my wishes to create a change on a bigger scale, when someone tells me that thanks to me the digital aspects of their lives are now in order and taken care of, I'm moved, because I know that if something were to happen to him/her, even just for his/her family, it's all worth it . 

Thank you. 

So What's New in Digital Death?

The end of 2015 is a great excuse to look back and see what's new in Death. Digital Death. 
Here is my summary of 2014


  • The internet (mainly Reddit and Facebook) successfully recognizes "Grateful Doe", an anonymous body between 1995 and December, as Jason Callahan

  • made a lot of noise when it first launched in January 2014 and has been silent since. In November she is heard from again: here is the post I wrote about it. 
  • After a long struggle by Holli Gazzrd's family, which involved the media, after she was murdered in 2014, in November Facebook finally removes from her memorialised profile pictures of her together with her killer, from back when they were a couple. Here is the post I wrote about it.  
  • A new international design competition launches in November: Future Cemetery Design Competition
  • A new non-profit association presents itself in the UK in November: Digital Legacy Association. It offers a Digital Death framework aimed at both people who take care of sick or elderly family members and professionals offering palliative care. A wonderful cooperation with UK hospices. 

  • Another attempt at virtual immortality presents itself in October: Humai. Warning: when you enter the site music begins to play. Annoying. 
  • Eight years old Lake Bozman dies of Leukemia in May. In October, his parents, Anna Bozman and Travis Thompson, decide to get married. The photographer adds Lake into the wedding picture
  • One of the most well known sites for digital legacy management, Death Switch, shuts down in October. 
  • Yahoo presents a new mail app in October which skips the password stage, and I wonder if this is going to make posthumous access easier or more difficult. 
  • Facebook continues to cause people pain, although unintentionally, through On this day memories who leap up at you. She tries to resolve this in October, by giving users more control over the presented memories. Unsurprisingly it's not a good enough solution: you can't opt out of the thing all together.   
  • In October, LastPass and LogMeIn merge. I hope this will bear fruit in the form of a legacy heir, like the one PasswordBox has (previously known as Legacy Locker). 

Lake is part of the family pic

  • In September Facebook announces it's working on an empathy button: NOT a dislike button: an empathy button. Hopefully this will make comments and reactions to online grief easier. 
  • In September France offers it citizens an opportunity to vote online regarding a new legislation which includes a Digital Death bit: English website, French website, my post about this. Here is the relevant Digital Death part of it. 
  • Unfortunately, in September the ULC bowes down to the pressure applied to it by paid lobbyists of the big companies, and changes the bill it presented last year: here is the (very agitated and frustrated) post I wrote about it
  • Taurean Summers, a paramedic, was transporting a patient to a hospital when the plane he was on crashed in 2014. His wife, Stephanie Summers, was five months pregnant with their firstborn. In September the photographer adds Taurean to the pictures of Stephanie and their son
Taurean is part of the family pic 

  • The second Death Online Research Symposium takes place in London, UK in August. Here is my summary of the first day and second day
  • Buzzfeed publishes in August a Digital Death video they created. 
  • Another attempt at virtual immortality presents itself in August: ETER9.
  • The trial of the murderer David Michael Kalac was set to August. In 2014 he uploaded to 4chan pictures and graphic details of the body and the killing, after murdering 30 years old Amber Lynn Coplin. 
  • In the 23rd Def Con which takes place in Las Vegas in August, the Australian Chris Rock explains how to virtually and digitally kill people: link, link.   

  • In July Google update their answer regarding Digital Death: here is my post about it (I admit: it might have been earlier and I only noticed it in July). 
  • A mini symposium titled "Ghosts in the Machine" takes place in Denmark in June. 
  • Dashlane, the password manager app, publishes a press release in June regarding emergency password access. 
  • In June it turns out you can place virtual flowers on virtual graves of TV shows that were discontinued and/or of TV characters that were killed in the line of duty, courtesy of TV Graveyard. Updates were posted in August and October, to include more characters / TV shows. 

Lane is part of the family pic 

  • Facebook causes people pain, although unintentionally, through On this day memories which leap up at you. In March Sean Forbes shares his painful experience. 
  • Sir Terry Pratchett dies on March 12th 2015. The same month a petition goes online, asking Death to reinstate him. I wonder in which form or format it shall be presented if it reaches it's 35,000 signatures goal

Did I forget to include something? Please do let me know! Send me an email - address is at the header - or send me a message through the Facebook page of the blog. 

Things to look forward to in 2016: 


My Summary of "Death Online Research Symposium", August 2015, London, UK - Day 2

My summary of Day One - August 17th - can be found here

Day Two - August 18th 

Keynote lecture by Daniel MillerUniversity College London, UK

What I remember most from his talk was his story about interviewing an old man from a small village in England. The man told him proudly that "There isn't anyone in this village who wouldn't help me if I asked him/her to". So Daniel asked him: "Well, have you asked anyone in this village for help?" and he replied: "Well of course not!".
I also remember the English attendees of the symposium laughing their heads off from his description of this small English village, and a certain person who shall remain anonymous said "Thank you for describing my entire family just now".
On a more serious note, the findings I remember are that there were many old people in need of company or assistance and many younger people who volunteered impressive amounts of time to help the needy and the elderly - and the trick to making it work seems to be to have strangers help, and not people they know, in order for both sides to feel comfortable with the exchange. 

Here are some quotes from his abstract:

"Social Media and the English Death": 

My study in an English village found a surprising amount of loneliness and isolation amongst hospice patients. I argue this is not because of the decline in English sociality, the problem is English sociality. One of the results of our study is a definition of social media. As it happens this is especially important in the English context because the prior dualism between public broadcasting and private chat corresponded closely to the traditions of English sociality which also tended to split between being friendly in public while defending the sanctity of the private home. Social media has radically changed this from a duality of media to what we call scalable sociality which can bridge between the private and the public through the group. I look at the implications this has for hospice patients both now and in the future. Partly through the stories of two particular patients and their use of Facebook, which amongst other things, revealed how a mirror selfie can be extraordinarily profound".

Panel session 3: Practices of Death, Dying and Mourning Online

Panel Chair: Korina Giaxoglou, Kingston University London
  • Discussing death and dying on Facebook while watching the virtual wake of a stranger: Andréia Martins, University of Bath
  • Networked empathy and the art of dying. Blogging with and about cancerYvonne Andersson, Stockholm University
  • Un-controlled presence: post-mortem digital interactionPaula Kiel, London School of Economics and Political Science 
  • #RIPRobinWilliams - digital memorials as mediators of a ‘lived life’Anu Harju, Aalto University 
  • A digital archaeology: navigating the post-mortemAriana Mouyiaris 

Andréia Martins, University of Bath

Picture by Jakob Sabra

Her presentation caught me completely by surprise. I was unaware that group online watchings of wakes of strangers existed. I couldn't help but wonder if watching reality shows is to blame for this phenomenon. I can't imagine a group gathering online to eat popcorn, watch the wake of a stranger and post comments and judgments about the ordeal - yet they do. They Tweet to let each other know when one is online and where to watch it and they make print screens to capture the experience for those who couldn't make it. Is it a fascination with death? Is it disrespectful for the deceased / the people who attend the wakw in person? If so, why is it open for live streaming / watching and not hidden behind a password for only the relatives and friends to see? Apparently it has evolved over time: at first there was only one camera, now there are several, including one just above the casket, showing the face of the deceased. I wouldn't watch it if you paid me to - but there are people that this is how they spend their Friday nights, glued to the screen, watching the wake of a stranger. 

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Discussing Death and Dying on Facebook While Watching the Virtual Wake of a Stranger

This paper aims to show the main interactions between users of a Brazilian Facebook group that often use the viewing of Virtual Wakes of strangers to discuss death and dying. The Virtual Wake is the real-time streaming of the period of 12 to 24 hours the family normally spends with the body before burying or cremating it, and is an extremely important part of the Brazilian death rituals, interpreted as the last chance to say goodbye to a loved one. The Virtual Wake is now a thriving business for the funerary companies and consists in placing a camera in the rooms where the regular wake happens. The online community, called “Dead people profiles” is a space dedicated to listing the profiles and causes of death of Facebook users, similar to an obituary, and today has more than thirteen thousand members. Their points of view and
general community interactions were analyzed during participant observation and private interviews in 2013 as part of a Nethnography work for a Master’s Thesis in Anthropology, introducing this less explored feature of virtuality as a possibility to deal with death and dying".

Yvonne Andersson, Stockholm University

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Networked Empathy and the Art of Dying. Blogging With, and About, Cancer

In media debate the blogosphere, especially diary blogs, is sometimes criticized for contributing to the superficiality of society as the subjects discussed in blogs tend to be rather trivial, such as trends in fashion, food and home decoration. In social media research Miller has argued that blogs have shifted from providing substantive texts and dialogue to ‘pathic exchange’ with the only purpose to maintain connections. Blogs have therefor become parts of a rising pathic media culture characterized by individualization, ‘pure relationships’ and commodification of information and social relations.  
This presentation however, will describe blogs written by terminally ill persons and discuss how these offer new opportunities for communication about existential experiences as well as opportunities for people to approach their existential (in)security through exchanging empathy in a networked society. This ongoing research both draws on and moves beyond Zygmunt Bauman’s theory of the rationalization of death in modern society. It does so by adding Lövheim’s theory of ‘empathic communication’ – a communication between bloggers and readers where the value and forms of empathy and mutuality are collectively maintained and transformed – balancing the pathic media culture found and described elsewhere in Internet research and at the same time providing insights into, what Seneca calls, the art of dying in the 2010s". 

Paula Kiel, London School of Economics and Political Science 

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Un-Controlled Presence: Post-Mortem Digital Interaction

Throughout modernity, the social construction of death was characterised by a tension: on the one hand a desire to eliminate and remove death from everyday life, while on the other, a continuous and ever-lingering presence of the deceased in daily life. In between these conflicting desires, communication technologies have repeatedly triggered fantasies of dismantling boundaries between death and everyday life. 
Most recently, digital platforms such as, and open up new possibilities of post-mortem forms of interaction that potentially allow an active participation of the dead in users’ everyday lives through digital media. For example, by allowing the dead to “send” emails, “post” on social networking sites and even “engage” in conversations. In so doing, these platforms arguably challenge conceptions of death as stillness, and the association of the dead with silence and absence. 
In this paper, a concept of controlled presence is suggested for studying death in our current moment and conceptualising its distinctive characteristics. For this end, the paper examines post-mortem interaction websites as a site in which social meanings of death and the dead are formed, negotiated and modified in contemporary Western cultures. Employing a multi-modal analysis of websites dedicated to post-mortem interaction, this study explores the characteristics of practices of post-mortem digital interaction, and highlights the changing constructions of death from an excluded and confined experience to one which can be potentially embedded within everyday life. This paper argues that practices of post-mortem digital interaction are potentially reshaping the content, materiality and temporality of contemporary practices of controlling and managing the presence of death, deadness and the dead".

Anu Harju, Aalto University School of Business, Helsinki, Finland

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"#RIPRobinWilliams - Digital Memorials as Mediators of a ‘Lived Life’

We live in times of affect economy. Death brings us together through mediated participation in online mourning rituals where belonging is achieved through emotional identification with distant others. Mediated rituals have the capacity to evocate a sense of communal belonging. Exploring social media as mediated public space, the study focuses on the meanings assigned to the lives of deceased celebrities. Combining a social constructionist approach with systemic functional linguistics (SFL) analysis, this study examines how a ‘lived life’ is (co)constructed in online memorising and embedded in digital memorials. 
Actor Robin Williams died in August 2014, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in February the same year. Celebrity death disrupts normality, peaking also in social media. Perhaps due to the untimeliness of most famous deaths, they remind people of “what really matters”. This study looks at what kinds of meanings are assigned to the lives lived and lost, how celebrities gain meaning in and by death as these meanings are discursively and collectively constructed in social media and anchored in digital memorials. The study extends our understanding on, first, how digital memorials come to mean, and second, the role of online memorising in a sense of belonging. The empirical material consists of YouTube memorial videos as well as #RIPRobinWilliams and #RIPPhilipSeymourHoffman tweets. The results suggest meanings originate from the lives and needs of the mourning audience more than the actual lives of the celebrities, suggesting that digital memorials, while having a collective function, also harbour deeply personal meanings".

Ariana Mouyiaris 

Ariana was the most powerful experience for me this symposium, and I spent her entire talk wishing I could hug her - which I eventually did. Her brother, Alexis, died in November 2014, the symposium was held in August 2015, and even though everything is so fresh, so stood there and gave an amazing, eloquent talk. I was so mesmerized I didn't write notes during it, which I now regret. She shared what her family went through after his death, and how they had to "dig up" digital clues in order to get some much-needed answers. It was an intellectual presentation but for me it was an emotional one, which is why I remember more of how I felt during her talk and less of what she said. I very much hope to cross paths with her again.

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"A Digital Archaeology: Navigating the Post-Mortem

If to live and to die are abstract, existential questions, the digital remnants and artifacts of a life become increasingly present reminders and spaces for the post-mortem exploration of loved ones and friends. How is this new territory accessed, mediated, manipulated and, ultimately, understood? 
In the wake of my brother’s premature death last November, these issues along with a plethora of legal, moral, bureaucratic obstacles arose. Questions of access, passwords, privacy, public memorializing, sociopathic manipulations of truth and relationships became increasingly amplified and exposed in the public domain. Usage of social media platforms, in particular Instagram and Facebook, as a means of reaching networks to inform and share expressions of the deceased became primary tools and sites for emotional and digital exchange. 
In a society that seeks to keep death on the margins, uncomfortable with accepting and creating rituals to integrate it more fully into the psychology of life, how can the digital allow for a more considered, reflective and positive movement towards catharsis and collective mourning: to create an (in)tangible space for the digital afterlife? This paper seeks to explore an increasingly relevant domain in post-materialist studies and contemporary mourning. Ultimately, what holds meaning and how are memories constructed and reconstructed based on shared digital repositories? How does one’s kin preserve and archive the documents, correspondence, photographs and media (whether music via soundcloud or email accounts) once notifying digital providers of one’s death? 
What are the services that should be offered to help access and trace the activity in the run up to the loss? If there are unresolved details and questions surrounding the death, what new services can arise to help piece together the digital evidence proceeding and surrounding trauma whether for preliminary/pre-criminal investigation or personal grieving? I will largely focus the paper on primary evidence and experience and draw on wider academic and intellectual writings, such as Derrida’s ‘The Work of Mourning’, Socrates and Epicurus".

Participants of Panel session #3
Left to right: Paula, Andréia, Ariana, Anu, Yvonne

Artistic Presentation: Thieves and Swindlers are not allowed in paradise: Jasmine Johnson

Keynote lecture by Wendy MoncurUniversity of Dundee, Scotland 

I loved her talk. The first part of it was so similar to some of the talks I give I felt right at home: "Our digital selves are scattered all over the globe and ownership is unclear". I liked how she stated that "we use the world wide web, but legislation isn't world wide" and her suggestion that "We're dead once we are no longer searched for, or when we come up last in the search results" (Hope I'm not misquoting). I also liked her ideas about digital temporality: creating something digital which will lose pixels over time, like how printed pictures fade with time. She also spoke about digital decay, value in data and posthumous interactions.
The second part was where she took this knowledge to make something with it and out of it, which is a concept I appreciate and respect. 

What you see in these pictures is a prototype which works only when held, which I love. It was made in collaboration with and for a grieving mother, Myra, in remembrance and commemoration of her son, Andrew. 

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Living Digitally

We are increasingly living out aspects of our lives digitally. But what happens when we die? In this keynote, I’ll explain what I mean by a ‘digital life’, comparing it with physical and social human lifespans. I’ll explore the reasons why it is so difficult to completely terminate your digital life, before describing the options for a continuing presence after physical death, both in the memories of others and as a rather more active, even vocal, digital entity".

Panel session 4: Digital afterlife and digital legacy

Panel Chair: Jo Bell, University of Hull
  • Remains in the System: recounting the lives of data in mourningSelina Ellis Gray, Lancaster University
  • The Media End: The Digital Afterlife and the Ending of Social Media – Contours of our Digital ThrownessAmanda Lagerkvist, Stockholm University
  • Erasure and the datafied selfAudrey Samson, City University of Hong Kong

Selina Ellis Gray, Lancaster University

I love her work and was delighted to get to see some of it

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Remains in the System: Recounting the Lives of Data in Mourning

What happens if we think about our digital legacies, not as a static collection of data that people abandon in death, but as a mass of remains that ‘live on’ within a range of digital networks? This question has underpinned my doctoral research and methodological approach, prompting the development of a PhD, which looks towards what ‘Remains in the System’. In this doctoral study I engaged in a multi-sited ethnography online in order to empirically follow the ‘lives’ of data across a three year period. These observations of data included a range of photographs, status updates, videos, poems, audio files, biographical accounts and so forth, from their early inception, through to their decay. In this presentation I want to recount core findings from a chapter called: ‘When Loss Remains’, which overviews a 25 year history of mourning online. The work begins in 1990 and outlines the first known example of death online, accounts of mourning and the issue of data within a Virtual Community. I will then discuss the early practices of loss that transitioned onto the World Wide Web and developed within the first free user generated sites in the mid 1990’s. Moving to reveal a multitude of sites which are still active 18 years after they first emerged. Finally I discuss the transition of data from these first user generated sites onto contemporary social networks in order to give an insight into the diversity of practices online. Accounting for the lives of data amongst a historical frame of mourning online, will not only bring a different perspective to the issue of digital legacy, but also, prompts us to think about the materiality of data. How it can persist, become entangled or lost in unexpected and surprising ways".

Amanda Lagerkvist, Stockholm University

Amanda's talk was fascinating as well. She discussed how some people wish to end social media presence, not to prolong it. Her mention of "Digital Data Funerals" was a great lead towards Audrey's talk next.

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"The Media End: The Digital Afterlife and the Ending of Social Media – Contours of our Digital Throwness

"In reiterating the nitty-gritty of a classic article in death studies by Tony Walter “Sociologists never die”, one may propose that for media studies proper, there is no proper end. Due to its limited modernist and rational foundations, death itself has only recently become focused in the field, and remains marginal.
For a certain strand of media studies ‘improper’ on the other hand there is nothing but the end, as it is preoccupied with posthuman fictionalizations of a fossilized media future, and a memory of our civilisation, after we have died out. Suspending these alternatives, this paper launches an existential approach and argues that the digital has become a cultural form wherein we face endings, death, as well as phenomena of ‘the digital afterlife.’ These entail our fundamental thrownness \ through those defining and eternal ‘limit-situations’ that have assumed a partially different shape in digital culture. Much attention has been paid to online memorialization in the death online context. A less discussed countertendency is the prevailing need of closure and ending of social media. In zooming in on two contrasting cases: the market rhetoric of a digital afterlife actant, and the invisible market strategy of a company that offers the service to entirely end the social media life of the dead, I will sketch out the contours of our digital thrownness and how it, despite or because of our posthuman condition, both demands our agency and triggers a register of affective engagement. 
This will result in a typology of the digital afterlife, and in an outline of key features of its structure of feeling, entailing 1) meaningful memorialization and the quest for ‘existential security’ 2) a spooky intermediary realm of reflex bodily engagement and affect 3) a space of temporal crisis of returnings and of the enduring ephemeral and 4) a space managerial reasoning 5) and finally a case of re-enchantment at play, even in the most unlikely of places – in the posthuman archive".

Audrey Samson, City University of Hong Kong

Picture by Jakob Sabra

Audrey was the perfect way to end the symposium. What she did in "Goodnight Sweetheart
and "" is fascinating and thought provoking. 

Here are some quotes from her abstract:

"Erasure and the Datafied Self 

The following research is concerned with what kind of role the materiality of Internet technologies plays in post-mortem digital legacy (also called digital death), and how digital data bleeds into our mourning practices. It explores these questions by examining how Facebook and Google deal with digital death, and what kind of consequences the materiality of the network entails. The notions of materiality are understood here as a space of interaction between code and hardware and perceived materialisation of phenomena iteratively configured by dynamics of ‘intraactions’. In the examples considered I look at how terms of conditions apply to memory in the form of externalised tertiary retention in the process of “grammatization”. I also consider how the technical infrastructure and code of these frameworks contribute to what Wendy Chun’s calls “undead media”, and therefore how the persistence of media affects how we remember. The research also looks at the biological human memory’s materiality and its need to forget . Ultimately I propose digital data funerals as an artistic strategy to make data tangible and to explore how these layers of stockpiled data constantly re-configure our identities. Digital data funerals offer a symbolic gesture that draws attention to the materiality of data through tangible and physical degradation, in an attempt to surpass post-mortem datafication, and surveillance".

And then it was time for some closing remarks!

The next Death Online Research Symposium, DORS3, shall take place in Denmark in October 2016. Thank you Dorthe Refslund Christensen from Aarhus for taking it upon yourself to organize it. 

Korina Giaxoglou and Stine Gotved (with her back to us) 

I wish to take this opportunity to again thank Korina Giaxoglou and Stacey Pitsillides for taking it upon themselves to organize this symposium and to thank them and everyone who presented and attended for making it such an interesting and successful one.