An Interview with me at i24 News

In March 2015 I was interviewed for the morning edition of i24 news, about Facebook's Legacy Contact. The interview starts at 43:19

The full list of interviews with me in English can be found here, and in Hebrew here


My Answer to: "Why Are There so many Services to Preserve Virtual "Tombs" of Yourself Online?"

I answered this question elsewhere and thought I'll post my answer here as well: 


My short answer to the query: "Why are there so many services to preserve virtual "tombs" of yourself online?" is: because we can

My longer answer is: In the past, only artists, the rich, the famous and/or the powerful had a chance to commemorate themselves in a way which would hopefully preserve their memory for all eternity, or at least a part of it. 

In the past, only the rich could afford to be buried in a mausoleum, only the powerful could build palaces and monuments, only the famous assumed they were leaving behind a legacy rich enough to be long remembered after their death and only artists knew they were earning an eternal place for themselves through their creations. Pyramids were not built for each and every member of ancient Egyptian society, when you stop to think about it. 

Here is a recent example: an Israeli artist, Ziv Rubinstein, released his latest CD. This is the print screen of his Facebook announcement of it:

In English he only wrote
"Sorry for the delay, It's here", 
But in Hebrew he wrote:
"Yes! Another arrow shot towards eternity! The new CD is being released today". 

Today, we all get a shot towards eternity. We can all horde our digital legacy, without having to be rich, famous or powerful to do so. By preserving our online self we're preserving meaningful, significant parts of our digital persona - and our digital persona is a pretty big part of who we are. 
We're making digital mausoleums, virtual pyramids and online monuments for ourselves in hope to be remembered for who we were (or how we presented ourselves to the world). It's even better than a statue - not to mention being a lot more handy and way cheaper - because our virtual tomb will contain so much more of our essence. 

While platforms could fall out of favor (MySpace) and websites could disappear, most of us entertain the illusion the internet does and will last forever, and hopefully, with bits of us in it.


Pics From Google Campus

Thank you to everyone who showed up for my talks and my launch of the English version of the guide I wrote at Google Campus TLV last week. 

Thank you Meirav Darzi-Meiri for the make up and Eran Adato for the pics. 

See you in my next talks!


Launching The English Version Of The Guide: Tomorrow Eve At Google Campus TLV

The Hebrew version of the guide I wrote: Death In The Digital Era: Initial information about how to deal with the digital, virtual and online aspects of current deaths went online on my brother's birthday: August 17th. 
The English version of it went online on the day he was killed: March 2nd. 
They are both available for free reading, downloading, saving and printing, at any time and at no cost. 

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10th, at 19:30, I'm launching the English version of the guide at Google Campus TLV (Electra Tower, 98 Igal Alon Str., Tel Aviv), and you're invited to come mark this occasion with me and hear a talk I'll give.
Entrance is free and you don't need to register in advance (I'm thinking of doing this talk in English but I might decide at the last moment between Hebrew and English, depending on the audience attending).

All the details can be found in the Facebook events, in English or Hebrew

I'll be happy to see you, please feel free to invite other people who might find it of interest.


Available For Free Download: A Guide For Dealing With The Digital Aspects Following A Death

I Wrote a guide about Death In The Digital Era: Initial information about how to deal with the digital, virtual and online aspects of current deaths. It's a booklet you can read, download, save and print at any time and at no cost. 

The guide is aimed both at the grieving family members themselves and at the professionals who support bereaved people: psychologists, social workers, military professionals, volunteers in non-profit associations etc..  

I would appreciate getting your feedback about it: both if it was of assistance to you and if you have encountered - as part of your personal dealings or someone else's - additional topics which this booklet has not yet addressed. I'll be happy to broaden it and make sure it gives a precise and complete a guide as possible following such feedbacks. Please feel free to write to me either via email: death.in.digital.era@gmail.com or via the Facebook page of the blog. 

The guide can be found here
You can scroll in it using the keyboard arrows or the bar on the side.

The guide was first published in Hebrew on my brother's birthday: August 17th. Today, March 2nd, the date in which he was killed, it is published in English. 

I wish to thank the following people, without whom the English version might not have come into being: 

  • Amir Shemesh, who simply, one day, out of the blue, sent me an email saying: "Hi, I know you wish for your guide to be translated to English, enclosed please find the first draft" (we've never even met). 
  • Mórna O Connor,  a colleague and a friend, who, upon hearing that I was disappointed by someone who took the language check and proof reading upon herself and then disappeared, immediately suggested that she'll take this task upon herself in her stead. 
  • Shiri Yeshua, a graphic designer and a friend, who does all the graphic design for Digital Dust pro-bono since it first went online in 2012, and after designing the Hebrew version of the booklet, volunteered to also design the English version. 
I hope you know how much I appreciate your assistance and how awed and humbled I am by it. I simply could not have done it without you. Thank you for all the time, effort and good will you have put into this. 

I have deliberately focused in this guide on posthumous dealings. Managing our Digital Death issues while we are still alive is a different matter, which I hope to address in another booklet, but for now, this booklet intentionally deals only with after death digital issues. If you wish to know more about how to manage your digital legacy while you're still alive, please visit the following posts in this blog: 

In January 2015 AVG published their own free eBook for Dealing with Digital Death. It's written in an angle which is a bit different from mine (and was published after mine), so you might find it of interest to you as well. 


Facebook Changes Their Posthumous Policy: You Can Now Choose Your Own Legacy Contact

Today, Feb. 12th, Facebook announced a new service: the possibility of Adding a Legacy Contact. 

Here are some quotes and images form their official press release: 

"Today we're introducing a new feature that lets people choose a legacy contact—a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away. Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialize the account and the legacy contact will be able to:
  • Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
  • Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
  • Update the profile picture and cover photo
If someone chooses, they may give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook. Other settings will remain the same as before the account was memorialized. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages.
Alternatively, people can let us know if they'd prefer to have their Facebook account permanently deleted after death.
Until now, when someone passed away, we offered a basic memorialized account which was viewable, but could not be managed by anyone. By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death. 
Here's how to choose a legacy contact:
Open your settings. Choose Security and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page. 
After choosing your legacy contact, you’ll have the option to send a message to that person.
You may give your legacy contact permission to download an archive of the posts, photos and profile info you've shared on Facebook.
We’ve also redesigned memorialized profiles to pay tribute to the deceased by adding “Remembering” above their name and making it possible for their legacy contact to pin a post to the top of their Timeline. 
We're introducing legacy contact in the US first and look forward to expanding to more countries. Setting up a legacy contact is completely optional.  
Our team at Facebook is grateful and humbled to be working on these improvements. We hope this work will help people experience loss with a greater sense of possibility, comfort and support". 

A memoralized profile with
the word "Remembering" added to the name and 
a post created and pinned by the Legacy Contact. 

My first reaction is - Yay! Wow. A definite improvement to the existing (non-existing) Facebook policy in this regard. 

Facebook is the second company to offer an in-house solution: Google was the first, in April 2013, with her 'Inactive Account Manager'. You can read more about it in my posts here and here
Many websites offer options to manage your digital legacy - a list can be found in this post of mine here.
(Actually it's the second-and-a-half company if we were to count Yahoo! Japan's service as well). 

I still had a few questions after reading this press release, which I directed at Jodi Seth, a Facebook Spokesperson (Manager of Policy Communications, to be precise): 
    1. Q: What about pages the deceased was an Admin to? Will the Legacy Contact have access to those as well, even just to appoint another Admin?
      I hate seeing valuable content - of both sentimental and financial value - lost over an account being memorialized, when another Admin hasn't been appointed before or after the death of the sole admin of a page.
      A: No, the legacy contact only applies to personal profiles at this time, but it is something we will certainly think about as this evolves.
    2. Q: Has anything changed regarding what happens to an account of a person who dies without nominating a Legacy Contact? 
      A: Our current memorialization policies applies: someone can request the page be memorialized (viewable, but not managed by anyone), and the family may still request the account be deleted.
    3. Q: Will users be prompted to sign up for this service? 
      A: They will not. We have posted information in our newsroom and hope that and the media coverage will encourage people to sign up as they see fit.
    4. Q: I'm uncertain about tagging: can someone be tagged in a picture or a post once their account has been memorialized? If so, then: can the Legacy Contact control those tags? For instance, if a deceased person was tagged in an ad or something else which is unsuitable or inappropriate, can the Legacy Contact untag the deceased? (I didn't see any tagging reference here). 
      AMemorialized accounts can be tagged, and whether or not the tag shows up to friends depends on the settings they had during their lifeLegacy contacts cannot currently untag, but they can reach out to the person who tagged the deceased person and ask that they remove the tag. And anything that goes against our Community Standards can be reported and we would review and delete as appropriate. 
    5. Q: Will the Legacy Contact have permission to delete posts from the timeline after the account has been memorialized? For instance, if hurtful, un-kind posts were posted, could the Legacy Contact remove it?  
      A: No, we have a reporting process, which would allow people to report anything they feel violates our terms of service and Facebook would review and delete those things.
    6. Q: It states that the Legacy Contact can "Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook": how about a "Follow" button, if the deceased hadn't set one himself/herself while he/she were still alive? Could the Legacy Contact add a "Follow" button, for people who would not wish the befriend the deceased but would like to follow, for example?
      No, a legacy contact could not add a follow button. 
    7. Q: Will the Legacy Contact be able to write a post on the timeline of the deceased and pin it there even if the "Who can post on your timeline?" settings was set to "only me" at the time of the death? If the timeline was set to "only me", will the Legacy Contact be able to change that to "friends", in order to allow the friends and family members of the deceased to express their grief there?
      A legacy contact could not change the settings  that the account holder had in life - so if the person did not allow anyone to post on his or her timeline in life then the Legacy Contact could not change that after death.
    8. QCould the Legacy Contact position be revoked or transferred? For instance, if a couple breaks up, could they revoke the position they have previously appointed to their former spouse, and/or transfer the position to their new spouse?
      A: Yes, a person may change their legacy contact as often as they like before death.
    9. Q: Has the policy changed regarding who can notify Facebook about a death of a user and/or how that notification is made? 
      I find the current policy, of anyone being able to report anyone, and that all that is required is a link to an obituary, troubling. 
      This is what a form to 'Report A Deceased User' used to look like and this is what a 'Memorialization Request' looks like now. Does it only LOOK different, or is there a change of policy too behind the change in appearances?
      A: Anyone can request memorialization, but it is verified by our community operations team who thoroughly reviews each request – we ask for an obituary or news article, but we also use other social cues to verify that the request is legitimate. We have very low rates of false memorializations. Deleting an entire account after memorialization can only be requested by immediate family and that requires a death certificate. Memorialization requests are handled the same way.

                    Jed Brubaker is a PhD candidate in the department of Informatics at UC Irvine. Facebook involved him in this project as an academic collaborator, to share findings from his six years of researching death and grief on social media, and to provide feedback and guidance during the design and development of Legacy Contacts. 

                    If you want to take this opportunity and become more acquainted with Jed's work, here are a few useful links: 

                    • Projects:
                    • Publications
                      • “We will never forget you [online]” : An empirical investigation of post-mortem MySpace comments. Proc. CSCW 2011. Hangzhou, China. March 19–23, 2011. [pdf]
                      • Grief-Stricken in a Crowd: The language of bereavement and distress in social media. Proc. ICWSM-12. Dublin, Ireland. June 4-8, 2012. [pdf
                      • Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a site for the expansion of death and mourning. The Information Society, 29, 3. [pdf]
                      • Death, Memorialization, and Social Media: A Platform Perspective for Personal Archives. Archivaria, 77, 1-23. [link]
                      • Stewarding a Legacy: Responsibilities and Relationships in the Management of Post-mortem Data. Proc. CHI 2014. Toronto, Canada. April 26 – May 1, 2014. [pdf]


                    'Interfacing': Digital Theatre @ Tel Aviv University

                    Last weekend I attended 'Interfacing': a Digital Theatre performance at the Tel Aviv University, created by Maya Magnat and Erez Maayan

                    It was thought provoking and interesting, and for a university-scale production, well made. 

                    "In this Digital Theatre act we wish to explore the relationship between us and the digital gadgets we use on a daily basis in such an integral way. During the performance an intimate relationship is created between the digital gadgets and the performer through the personification of the technology". 
                    Quoting from the programme. 

                    At the beginning of the performance, the audience participated interactively, as each two viewers sat in front of an active computer screen, and Maya's digital representation communicated with us through it:

                    We acted according to the tasks we were given  

                     Learned relevant terms

                     Chose which smiley - sorry, emoticon - to send 

                    Clicking our mice led us across virtual reality

                    As the performance continued the relationship between the human performer and her digital-virtual representation was revealed, becoming increasingly unclear who was leading whom, who was guiding whom, who was operating whom. 

                    Just in case you'll get to see it I won't write any spoilers - I will write that human Maya appeared in front of a screening of a video clip titled "Come, Technology" starring digital Maya. Additional layers were added as digital maya instructed human Maya during it: 

                    For me, the most captivating, memorable part of this act was when the lips in the tablet (=digital Maya) told human Maya: 

                    "I'll always be there for you. I'll appear as you wish for me to appear, I'll do as you wish for me to do. I'll never let you down or hurt you. I'll never leave you or die or break your heart. With me you'll feel safe. You'll never be alone again..."
                    Will the digital-virtual representations of our loved ones indeed always be there for us and with us, including after their physical demise? Are we under the illusion that our digital persona, or other people's digital persona, is immortal? 
                    I think so. I think we are under the illusion that if only we'll be "good, neat and tidy" and backup EVERYTHING, we'll be able to preserve ourselves and our loved ones in some fashion. And it is an illusion, because while it is fairly easy to kill a human being from a technical-physical point of view: all you need to do is break the neck or shoot vital organs, for instance, but this requires certain skills or capabilities which not all of us necessarily posses, as well as an intent to do harm.   
                    Deleting files, however, or taking a website or a platform off line, are much simpler and accessible actions, which we're all capable of: by mistake, by negligence or intentionally. And yet - most of us don't consider these possibilities. Is it because death is transparent to us? Because we do not wish to consider the possible demise, neither of the physical person nor of the virtual-digital-online persona? 
                    In past times, people left monuments behind in the form of grand structures, hoping they will last forever and so will their name and memory. Today, people leave even larger monuments behind in self commemoration - only it's not in the physical realms. Is the non-physical self commemoration more eternal than the physical one? Or is it only more accessible, as not all of us can create pyramids or lavish palaces, but all of us can leave enough digital and online memorabilia we've created to fill up virtual pyramids? 

                    The next part of the performance made us question exactly that eternal illusion, in my eyes, but we said no spoilers, so let's continue: 

                    Human Maya and digital Maya syncing their act  

                    Human and digital Mayas flirting with each other 

                    Human Maya chooses the lips representing digital Maya 

                    Digital and human Mayas connecting 

                    Audience participation once more: 

                    we were requested to turn the computer screens towards human Maya 

                    Digital Maya projected on human Maya 

                    Virtual reality (?) awaits us outside

                    I will try and update here and/or in the Facebook page of the blog if 'Interfacing' will be performed again. 
                    All pictures were taken by me during the performance. 


                    You might find the following post of interest to you as well: "Mediumship": Performance Art at 'Print Screen' Festival