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The Question Relay: Digital Death

The Question Relay: Digital Death

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Published by Stacey Pitsillides
WHAT IS DIGITAL DEATH?

Digital Death is defined as the death of a living being and the way it affects the digital world or the death of a digital object and the way it affects a living being.

SO WHAT IS A ‘QUESTION RELAY?’

Basically, one person (in this case me) starts the relay by simply asking a question. This question is then passed on to the most relevant person, who answers it. Then this person has their chance to pose a question. This question is then passed on and the cycle continues.

WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS?

The question may be asked from a range of disciplines and frameworks, they may be academic, economic, personal, professional or simply questions of curiosity about the wide area of ‘death and the digital.’
WHAT IS DIGITAL DEATH?

Digital Death is defined as the death of a living being and the way it affects the digital world or the death of a digital object and the way it affects a living being.

SO WHAT IS A ‘QUESTION RELAY?’

Basically, one person (in this case me) starts the relay by simply asking a question. This question is then passed on to the most relevant person, who answers it. Then this person has their chance to pose a question. This question is then passed on and the cycle continues.

WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS?

The question may be asked from a range of disciplines and frameworks, they may be academic, economic, personal, professional or simply questions of curiosity about the wide area of ‘death and the digital.’

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Published by: Stacey Pitsillides on Nov 08, 2010
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05/30/2013

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DIGITAL DEATH \\QUESTION RELAY

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0100011001 Ahhhhhhhh SAVE ME!

Im still here!
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Introducing: The Participants

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RELAYS:
1. Stacey Pitsillides 1 relays to Esther Makkay 3 relays to Britta Rensing 9 2. Toni Sant 15 relays to Peregrine Andrews 17 3. Niki Lambropoulos 21 relays to Duncan Fairfax 23 4. Nathan Lustig 29 relays to Anonymous 31 relays to Janis Jefferies 35 5. Roland Van Rijswijk 39 relays to Janis Jefferies 41 6. Michela Magas 45 relays to Judi Clark 47 7. Death Reference Desk 53 relays to Toni Sant 55 relays to Niels De Jong 59 relays to Elaine Kasket 63 8. Elaine Kasket 71 relays to Niki Lambropoulos 73 9. Anonymous 77 relays to Nathan Lustig 79 10. Yolanda Kading 83 relays to Elaine Kasket 85

11. Ahmet Sekercioglu 93 relays to Death Reference Desk 95 12. Richard Banks 99 relays to Death Reference Desk 101 13. Peregrine Andrews 105 relays to Antonis Tryphonos 107 14. Janis Jefferies 111 relays to Death Reference Desk 113 15. Rob Walker 119 relays to Richard Banks 121 16. Britta Rensing 127 relays to Yolanda Kading 129 17. Esther Makaay 133 relays to Rob Walker 135 18. John Wood 139 relays to Ahmet Sekercioglu 141 19. Niels De Jong 145 relays to Michela Magas 147 20. Duncan Fairfax 153 relays to Stacey Pitsillides 155 21. Judi Clark 159 relays to Roland Van Rijswijk 161 22. Antonis Tryphonos 165 relays to Nathan Lustig 167

WHAT IS DIGITAL DEATH?
Digital Death is defined as the death of a living being and the way it affects the digital world or the death of a digital object and the way it affects a living being.

SO WHAT IS A ‘QUESTION RELAY?’
Basically, one person (in this case me) starts the relay by simply asking a question. This question is then passed on to the most relevant person, who answers it. Then this person has their chance to pose a question. This question is then passed on and the cycle continues.

WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS?
The question may be asked from a range of disciplines and frameworks, they may be academic, economic, personal, professional or simply questions of curiosity about the wide area of ‘death and the digital.’

STACEY PITSILLIDES

MRes Goldsmiths Design Student! Research focuses on Digital Death, Digital Afterlife and Digital Heritage.

LINKS

www.digitaldeathandbeyond.blogspt.com www.vimeo.com/album/102363 www.digitaldeath.eu/

CONTACT ME
@RestInPixels

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Im still here!
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QUESTION:
Do you think we need to begin to make provisions for what happens to you and your loved ones digital information and identity(s) after death, do you think the simple existence of a ‘digital self’ affects the ‘way’ we as a society remember and mourn loved ones?

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ESTHER MAKAAY {A:
Well that’s actually quite a few questions included in one, you cheated. Ok I think this question has, two specific fragments and one is, do you think we need to make provisions for what happens to you and you loved ones digital information and perhaps identities after death because to me that also has to do with the way we portray ourselves digitally and online and it can be aspects of ourselves that could live on separately. I could imagine even people with a blog or some alter ego to allow others to even take over their identity and carry on in honor, if you want, or in spirits and to enhance that or elaborate on that with their own aspects. So maybe the second part the simple existence of a digital affects the way we as a society remember and mourn loved ones is not as separate as I first thought about it. Because I have digital contacts that only exist in virtual worlds. I have people I hardly ever see in real life but I talk to them quite regularly and so they will probably feel more connected to me digitally then in real life. No that is a different aspect of it, because that is about mourning and remembering. So yeah, absolutely but I’m also very curious about what is going to happen to these pseudonyms
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ESTHER MAKAAY
or partial identities that we have because they’re not with us as a real person but there is a very important aspect of us that is very distinct sometimes or very important to some groups. Maybe its also similar to the way that if a pubic figure dies, then his family will love him and the work relations will mourn in their own way but also the public has its own right to a piece of whoever is deceased and I think that is sort of similar to what will happen digitally because somehow these digital aspects of us seem to be an enlargement of the way we compartmentalize our identity in real life as well. Yea it’s a complex question coz one of the things I was pondering when coming up with my own question was how acceptable will it be to us in, well probably not right now but in a few years time or in future to really see our digital alter egos as sort of a semi-detached part of ourselves. Like if you have a rock band and you know one of the members dies and the others can continue but there’s only so much you can change until you really have to change the name of the band because its not the same group any more and I have seen this sort of going on online where there is this digital alter ego which is somewhat separate from the peoples…
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ESTHER MAKAAY
like the discussion going on with the Stig, is it like actually one guy driving the car or is it different F1 drivers just filling in the role and you know playing this guy, so maybe it’s more to theatre and acting as well, although there is more real life truth in it of course. I’m not sure.

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QUESTION:
What is the place of religion and spirituality within Digital Death, to expand this slightly, what is the ritual transfer of death ceremonies in the virtual space and what do they provide which is different from a physical ritual?

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BRITTA RENSING {A:
Well I would say that one of the important things of the digital realm is that people can be different if they want to be but they can also be themselves. Just a couple days ago I came across an example where somebody was different. I had a very interesting conversation on Second Life recently where one ritual participant said that he loved to be young in Second Life, meaning his avatar being young while in real life he was already old and judging from his small profile picture he was maybe say sixty or so, the virtual world suggests that someone is not as close to death as he might be in bodily reality, so this may be an example of consciously not having ritual transfer, as I think the personal component of the person belongs to the ritual as well because without persons ritual would not take place. On the other side you of course have strong ritual transfer in virtual space from my field of studies, which is neo-paganism and wicca I can see that the wheel of the year is celebrated with many transfer elements in the virtual space. The celebration of the wheel of the year focuses on the topics of being born, growing up, fulfilling personal tasks, growing
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BRITTA RENSING
old and then dying and especially the celebrations on Mabon, which is the autumn equinox on the 21st of September which is coming quite soon and the Samhain celebrated on the 31st of October broach the issue of looking back on ones life and focusing on death and also the awareness that death is coming nearer each day of life, the interconnectedness of life and death are an important topic for neo-paganism and when you look at ritual transfer to the virtual world you especially find the transfer of lets says acts and symbols. For example the establishing of the ritual circle, the calling of the four directions, then the symbols like: grain being reaped and wine being drunk, the door between the worlds being opened and so on, so actually I think it is a vivid combination of actually transferring some elements and not transferring other elements which is the interesting part of it when somebody chooses not to transfer elements and do other things and change them. I think the key word for pagan rituals and especially pagan rituals in the virtual space dealing with death is energy and raising energy. They explain it: the energy crosses all borders and it is sent to heal people mentally
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BRITTA RENSING
and physically and it is meant to strengthen participants and other people for daily life as well as for coping with mortality. Energy is seen as keeping the person alive as well as being given back to the universe when someone dies, this energy is seen as going from the bodily life to the virtual world and back and for neo pagans the energy concept strengthens the validity of celebrating rituals online because of the raised energy uses the electronic channels which build up the virtual world so this is basically what I was thinking about the question and how to combine religious items and spirituality issues with the digital death topic.

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DR TONI SANT

Dr Toni Sant is Director of Research at the University of Hull’s Scarborough School of Arts and New Media, where he also lectures on Performance & Creative Technologies. He is the founder and creative director of the MaltaMedia Online Network, executive editor of the Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide, and book reviews editor for the International Journal of Performance Arts & Digital Media. His research interests include the use of the Internet in/for performance, live art, applied theatre, interactive multimedia, podcasting, and the socio-cultural aspects of new media, particularly in marginalised communities.

LINKS

www.tonisant.com

CONTACT ME
@tonisant

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QUESTION:
Inscribing elements of our consciousness in digital formats would seem to make for longevity of presence beyond our physical death, but is this an illusion rather than a fact? 0100101110 0110110100 10111 01101 011010

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PEREGRINE ANDREWS {A:
Well, I suppose it depends how you define presence really. I mean, The example that I am thinking about most obviously would be facebook where people post into facebook and even if we arnt doing it often we are still putting things up that are about the people that we are, the things that we are doing, the thoughts that we are having so those are elements of our consciousness and as far as I am aware with facebook all contributions remain in theory forever, I mean forever is a big word but as far as we understand forever with a system like facebook it is forever, they don’t delete things. People are able to go onto facebook page and look at things that person may have said right at the beginning of the creation of that account. So if someone has had a facebook account for many years that could be many many thousands of contributions. Many thousands of little slithers of consciousness, if you like, and yes if that account is not deleted in death than all of those little moments will continue to exist. Does that constitute a presence, I think in a way it does, especially if your experience of a person is only via their facebook page. In many cases when you look at people’s facebook contributions you don’t necessarily
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PEREGRINE ANDREWS
interact with them. So its this kind of one ended thing. Well… in some ways, looking at those things after a persons death is no different from looking at them when they are alive, especially if you are not going to try and contribute back. So… its not an illusion… it is a fact.

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NIKI LAMBROPOULOS (INTELLIGENESIS)

Dr. Niki Lambropoulos is a researcher, consultant, e-learning expert, HCI designer, and online communities’ manager. Her interests fall in the field of Collective Intelligence, translated into Collaborative E-Learning in Computer Supported Collaborative Learning; Idea and Group Management in Distributed Leadership; and User Innovation Networks in Innovation and Open Innovation. She currenlty works as the Director of Intelligenesis and as a Human-Computer Interaction Education research fellow for the EU funded project EuroCAT in LSBU.

LINKS

www.nikilambropoulos.com

CONTACT ME
@nikilambro

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The job of the mirror neurons in our brain is to create the presence of the Self as well as the co-presence of the Other(s) in both real, digital or any other world via empathy. If there is such an analogy, then in what ways the absence of one element i.e. the absence of the Other is affecting our view of us and our worlds?

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DUNCAN FAIRFAX {A:
This is a very interesting question and without being too pedantically academically about it, I think there are some aspects of the question that need to be substantially considered because as is the case with an enormous amount of academic discourse, the overly metaphorical cross appropriation of one idea in one domain to another in many instances kind of leads to an inappropriate understanding. In some instances possible trivialization or misappropriation of one idea in one domain to another. The actual scientific research on mirror neurons has not been emphatically linked to any psychological conceptualization of self or identity, in many instances they are probably most consequentially thought of as being a mechanism of environmental adaptation, they are a learning thing so that we can mimic our adaptive relationships to our environment, the sort of epiphenomenal construction or conceptualization of self in relationship to that doesn’t have any relationship to that kind of mirror neuronal capacity if we were going to look at Churchland’s work in a kind of really strict eliminative materialist conceptualization of neurophysiological process, whatever other psychosocial embellishment
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DUNCAN FAIRFAX
we make of that idea, it is really just that, they are core materialist physical kind of processes. So there’s some underlying presumptions and problems in the question in some capacity. Then there is also the problem with the fact that that other, however it’s construed or constituted in this idea being constructed as a digital ‘other’ because evolutionarily, neurophysiologically, developmentally, that actual process is constructed prier to any overt technological mediatization of that relationship so the mirror neuronal relationship is constructed in relationship to a care giver, now there may well be some kind of process of mediation in that relationship given that then is kind of relevant to, appropriated by, some form of technological meditation but I think that kind of intracorporeal intrasocial relationship is something that precedes strict technological mediation so given all of that I’m not quite sure how exactly to answer the question but if I was to answer it kind of quite generally I think obviously the lack of the other in any form of mediation makes the constitution of the self incredibly problematic and difficult I think the more fundamental question underlying
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DUNCAN FAIRFAX
all of this is something that I know is essential to Stacey’s research is what are the intrinsic questions and problems in the technological mediatization of these relationships and then how would we think that question specifically in relationship to technology I think is the more kind of significant or appropriate question at stake.

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NATHAN LUSTIG (ENTRUSTET.COM)

Nathan Lustig is the cofounder of Entrustet.com, a website that helps people make last wishes for their digital assets. Founded in 2008, Entrustet is a free service that lets you create a list of all of your digital assets (online accounts and computer files) and then decide which accounts you’d like deleted and which you’d like transferred to heirs.

LINKS
www.entrustet.com

CONTACT ME
@nathanlustig @entrustet

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Currently websites are taking a ‘hands off’ approach toward digital death, if they have any approach at all. What role should companies be taking in the future and what should their policies toward digital death look like?

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ANONYMOUS {A:
Even here in Switzerland we have had evidence recently there is a large number of cases coming up as the users of facebook grow older and at some point there will be a lot of users or the survivors of those users causing trouble for sites because so much data is unavailable to the survivors. It is easy for them to put in the terms and conditions that they don’t bare any responsibility because people don’t read terms and conditions very carefully so that this matter might be building up behind the scenes and there would be many legal cases being solved in court. So perhaps individual companies like facebook will have to find their own individual solutions a second possibility is companies like that who inherit, they pass on their access data to survivors so that the controversy never arises, with companies like facebook, their survivors can merely log on using the password data and no controversy arises, except then of course the survivors have to deal with the data and whether the data is in any understandable format, is then another question.

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QUESTION:
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Will online memorials replace cemeteries? Will they augment cemeteries? Or will we always want a physical place to memorialize the dead?

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JANIS JEFFERIES {A:
I am not sure its an either or, it reminds me of course of Inyong’s wonderful project ‘Scanned Memories,’ he’s no longer with us, but he was a PhD student from Korea and why he was interested in online memorials was the fact that they have run out of space in South Korea and according to culture and also the Shahid community there, it very important on the name day to go every year to visit the cemetery now this caused enormous issues with traffic jams, with the lay of the land and the fact that in the end people couldn’t get there and the burial grounds were getting full. So he was particularly interested in online memorials because at least it would fulfill that sense of being present on the name day, in some way or another, so you could say that they augment cemeteries, in a virtual sense. I am sure that some people would prefer a physical place, again that would depend on a person’s culture, location, rights of passage. I think this might be intergenerational, I think it will lead to the physical context of death but the point about the online, the virtual memorial is the way in which the social media should add a great deal to the life of that person and to the memory of that person
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JANIS JEFFERIES
through all sorts of other multimedia contributions which you will not be able to access, I think, in a physical cemetery unless of course you have, trees of talking posts, so in some way, some kind of sensor activation, as you approach the cemetery which would begin to give you some kind of multimedia content.

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ROLAND VAN RIJSWIJK

Roland Van Rijswijk works for SURFnet, the National Research and Education Network in The Netherlands. He has been active in the digital arena since he was six years old at the start of the 80s and has been online since the early 90s. He has a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Roland’s professional research interests include digital security and identity management. His personal interests include digital photography, modern art and making music.

LINKS

www.surfnet.nl/en https://dnssec.surfnet.nl/ http://www.jumpfrog.nl/Jumpfrog/Start. html

CONTACT ME
@reseauxsansfil

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QUESTION:
Recently there have been mentions in the news about faked online suicides (see for instance http://www.rhizome. org/discuss/view/45942). People have also been reported as having died while they were still alive (this famously happened to Steve Jobs of Apple and even had an impact on Apple’s share prices). This raises some interesting questions. Firstly should you take online announcements of a death or of a suicide seriously? How can you prove or disprove such announcements? And is there such a thing as digital suicide? If so, how would you define it?

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JANIS JEFFERIES {A:
Well I think I am of a generation that might slightly distrust online announcements but on the other hand if we think about fakes and the whole issue of fakes, whether that’s to do with people writing biographies or whatever. There are some famous examples about some people writing about their war experiences particularly and holocaust survivors and some of these have proved to be fakes. The British museum is full of fakes and there is the question of how material gets authenticated and by whom. So that also brings in the question of an expert, but if there is a question of a suicide then the other thing you have to think about is that this is still considered illegal in some cultures particularly those that are, how can I say heavily Catholic orientated because it is considered a mortal sin to take your own life under that high religious objection. So there are all sorts of issues about what suicide is in any context, and if it is in abilitous reign then I suppose it depends on how those portals are managed, so that is a kind of management material issue as to how it gets authenticated unless it becomes like wikapedia where you can add in material but somehow the community does take responsibility
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JANIS JEFFERIES
for having some degree of accuracy the thing that’s really interesting here is what happens if this is ficticious, to answer that question about Steve Jobs having an impact on apple share prices, you can only speculate that that was a deliberate act to affect the stock market. That then raises other things about those kind of hacking interventions that can play havoc of course, in both the commercial and the private world.

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MICHELA MAGAS

Michela Magas graduated from the Royal College of Art in London with an MA in Communication Art & Design and now juggles design consulting with PhD research. She is co-founder of the Stromatolite Design Lab where her clients include Apple, Nike and Nokia. Since 1995 Michela has been developing ideas and innovation for product and media, conceptual design, systems architecture, iconography and new education methodologies.

LINKS

http://stromatolite.com/ http://www.mhashup.com/ http://tinyurl.com/ydux73s http://openproduct.blogspot.com/ http://www.decibel151.com/ http://www.criticalpractice.org/

CONTACT ME
@elasticengine

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QUESTION:
On ghanaweb.com it states: “Funerals [for the Ga tribe in coastal Ghana] are a time of mourning, but also of celebration. The Ga people believe that when their loved ones die, they move on into another life … They honor their dead with brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way they lived. The coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the dead person’s life -- such as a car if they were a driver, a fish if their livelihood was the sea -- or a sewing machine for a seamstress. They might also symbolize a vice -- such as a bottle of beer or a cigarette.” Baring this in mind, can digital death be the equivalent of Ghanaian Ga coffins? (see: http://www.ghanaweb.com/ GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/photo.day. php?ID=52081)

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JUDI CLARK {A:
The question that comes to me is about the Ga tribe in coastal Ghana that celebrate their death through physical manifestations and beautifully decorated coffins. So the question being asked is can digital death be the equivalent of these coffins and I think it certainly can and should. There’s a lot of options in the digital domain to represent yourself in a visual way, and in a lot of different spiritual ways and a lot of different expressive ways. The limitation is that there is not a physical thing that you actually can hang on to. It really is something you can explore and that can be more interactive. So, here’s a website that has a number of pictures of the different coffins that are being represented and as some of the coffins are like a dead man’s love for smoking and his cigarette business. There is no end of expressiveness that people can have about their lives and I think that you can really be quite creative, and ways to express and to explore. I think this could be a very healing process because not everybody has the same life. Similarly there’s a lot of places where the love of things, the love of something can be expressed in
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a lot of different ways so, I think it is incumbent on us to give this a bit of thought and exploration, see what we want to communicate, or what metaphors there are for expressing things that we love online. There’s certainly a lot of opportunity to explore whatever we want. Yea, that’s a very interesting thing, cultural bias about death. You know, if we have this, this reverent state where you know the funeral home and the process of how we treat our dead people here is the only way we are going to see the world then that really closes off a lot of expression. I think the world is a very colourful place and we should be curious about how we deal with death in the US. The developed world’s way of dealing with death isn’t really the only way of healing, anymore than it’s the only way of celebrating. I think the Ga tribe is a very interesting perspective: they put a lot of time and energy into these things. You should see these pictures. You know for them to say theirs is the only way is just as ludicrous as for us. You know we could have a hard time coming up with these coffins that are so unique and so individualistic,
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everyone should, could benefit by being curious about how other people heal.

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DEATH REFERENCE DESK

We are two librarians [Meg Holle and Kim Anderson] and one professor of death and dying practices [Dr. John Troyer], geographically dispersed but unified with dark inside. We combine our expertise to inform the casually interested and morbidly curious alike about All Things Death: the bizarre, the batty and the beautiful, from interesting blogs and recommended books to commentary and analysis of death in the news.

LINKS

www.deathreferencedesk.org www.facebook.com/pages/DeathReference-Desk/116246178416445?ref=ts

CONTACT ME
@DeathRef

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QUESTION:
Is there a distinction between the physical self and the digital self? Or, have we and technology advanced to the point where these distinctions are no longer relevant? What, if any, implications are there for NOT making the distinction? Especially in death.
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TONI SANT {A:
Well to begin with I am very pleased that the question doesn’t make a difference between a physical self and a virtual self or a real self and a virtual self. That is to say for me the physical self and the digital self are both real. So with death what changes is reality, reality changes but it doesn’t cease to be, so in that way I think the distinction between the physical self and the digital self is a different one then one between something that’s living and something that’s not necessarily living. In a sense that both the physical self and the digital self are living selves and also because they are both real selves, now also at the same time they can also be not necessarily real in a sense that the digital self can be a made up self and the physical self can be a self that is performed even though one could argue that every self is performed in some sense or other. So, I think to really unpack this idea of the physical self and the digital self we have to take them in relation to life and death but also in relation to what’s real and what’s not real and what’s virtual and what’s physical, in relation also to the idea that the physical self is made of atoms whereas the digital self is made
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TONI SANT
of electrons. So I think in as much as atoms can decay I am not sure if that’s scientifically accurate though, electrons are harder, I don’t know you can split an atom but can you split an electron, I mean I don’t know, I should look that up probably…

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QUESTION:
Facebook allows the family of deceased users to put these profiles into memorial mode. Given Facebook’s potential longevity, at some point the population of the dead will exceed that of the living. Does Facebook have a moral obligation to maintain these profiles?

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NIELS DE JONG {A:
So… well that interesting, I’m not sure if there is a moral obligation to do that because … There’s not really a morel obligation to maintain any of those profiles. You are not actually paying for it, you sign on and then make a profile and if you are not maintaining it yourself why should you have them kept up just because you put it in memorial mode. I am not sure they have any responsibility for that. I mean, if people would pay for it or if people have like an actual graveyard or a cremation centre you pay those people to maintain the grave and you don’t do that with Facebook you make a profile and then if you die you put it on to memorial mode. I mean there are actual memorial websites which you have to pay for like for a real grave and as long as you pay for it they have to keep the memorial on. I mean, I am not sure where the moral part is? But there has to be some kind of contact person that they could send an e-mail or some kind of notification that they want to remove that memorial site because no one is visiting it for maybe a year and then that contact person could say ‘yes that ok’ or
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NIELS DE JONG
maybe its not so I mean there has to be some kind of way or system to do that or some kind of argument why you want to keep it there? If you provide the option to create a memorial there must be some kind of protocol that you can follow or some rule… I don’t know?

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QUESTION:
If you die and the Internet doesn’t notice, do you have die again and again?

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ELAINE KASKET {A:
Oh my gosh, if you die and the internet doesn’t know, this is so interesting, if you die and the internet doesn’t notice do you have to die again and again. I will just tell you right off the bat what my mind goes with it. It was from the movie ‘When Harry met Sally’ that film from the 80s and they are talking in the car, and he’s saying “what if you go to New York and you don’t do anything and nothing happens to you and then you die one of those New York deaths where nobody notices until the smell drifts into the hallway’ and I was thinking what is the internet equivalent of the smell drifting into the hallway. You can draw that analogy, ok so a New York death how do they figure it out, it’s not just the smell drifting through the hallway it might be the newspapers piling up outside the door, the post piling up outside the door or the fact that someone says oh so and so hasn’t come out, or gone down to the corner lately. Or when was the last time you saw them open their door, so that those more tangible kinds of things that might alert somebody in the actual kind of physical world that actually somebody isn’t around anymore. What are the digital, internet correlates of that?
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ELAINE KASKET
Part of it is like a negative, so and so hasn’t shown up on whatever they haven’t shown up on you know, Skype, msn messenger, twitter, facebook or whatever there is a removal of something, something stops, somebody doesn’t show their digital face. But the positive side if someone is dead the obituary or notification gets posted in the newspaper, then somebody finds that and it kind of goes viral in terms of the persons friends and family from there but I am sure there are instances in which, I think in these days if the internet doesn’t notice, then that’s a different question than if the people that you communicate with on the internet don’t notice. What does it mean when they say the internet doesn’t notice? Does that mean the internet community, does that mean the information that comes up when you Google yourself or when you Google a particular person because that’s different. Because if somebody has died, their internet community knowing about it, or finding out about it, or figuring it out or communicating about it, that feels different than Googling that person’s name and being able to find out that they are dead. Ones presence is
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ELAINE KASKET
expected ones presence as constituted by ones responsiveness. This is the internet equivalent, ok, this is the digital equivalent of like ‘you hold the mirror up to somebody’s mouth and if you see there is fog on it you know they are breathing and they are still alive’ and so you send an email to somebody, you send a message on facebook your kind of holding that mirror up and seeing if you get the fog back and if you don’t get the fog back. So its so funny because that absence, that teleabsence is not acceptable. Even on holiday, here I am I’m technically on holiday and I’m chatting to you and its expected that I am telepresent still and I feel obligated to be tele-present to a number of people in a number of different ways. There’s a vague feeling amongst some people these days that tele-absence isn’t acceptable and if you are teleabsent then somebody’s going to think that something’s wrong, I mean my God where are they?! There they are holding up the mirror to see if you are breathing. People always talk about being too busy or too bombarded or too connected all the time and there is something fundamentally wrong with that or worrying about that or whatever. But I think that what we
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ELAINE KASKET
are talking about now is a little bit different then that, it’s not just about what we are doing its about what we are, its what we are becoming its about this digital side of ourselves being so much an integral part, that there’s a feeling of wrongness if you are not tele-present all the time if you are not available in that way all the time, and so it’s not just about what we are doing, we are doing too much of this we are involved to much with that. I get that feeling like I had when I signed on to my twitter today (I am on holiday) and I thought do I really want to be doing this? But I have no doubt that probably in a year or two from now that twitter bit of me might be so integrated into my life, into my presence into the world it’s no longer what I’m doing what I’m choosing to do, its just enveloped into how I’m being or how I am, you know? I read an essay the other day called ‘a hundred fears of solitude’ it was in the last issue of Granta and this guy was leading into it by talking about how when he was at university which wasn’t a long time ago twenty years or so he talked about how its was possible to be silent, how it was possible to be disconnected if you
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ELAINE KASKET
wanted to talk to somebody you had to walk across campus and hope you found them in and as you walked to your friends door there was the great potential for solitude, contemplation and great silence. These days if you go to the university campus everybody is wired up to the teeth and they are in contact all the time and he was thinking about this and how solitude wasn’t possible anymore and I think its a human given its an existential given that we are always being with others in the world and Heidegger talks about this ‘being with others in the world’ and this is not a condition you can check in and out of and you can say oh I am just not going to be with other people in the world now or now yes I am going to be with other people in the world that’s not a choice it’s an existential given that is the case all the time but of course Heidegger didn’t have any inkling of this level of technology he was concerned about television and he thought television had “abolished every possibility of remoteness” which is a quote of his and this is a hundred, a thousand times that now and I often wonder what a philosopher like Martin Heidegger would think of this level of being with others in the world and how he would characterise
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ELAINE KASKET
it, because it’s becoming more and more part of our being it’s not what we are doing it’s what we are.

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DR. ELAINE KASKET (LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY)

I am a senior lecturer in Counselling Psychology and a psychotherapist in private practice. My main research interests have to do with death and dying; I have investigated physicians’ emotional responses to their patients’ deaths and am currently researching mourning and continuing communication on Facebook with people who have died.

LINKS

http://londonmet.academia.edu/ ElaineKasket http://www.drelainekasket.com/

CONTACT ME
@dreprk

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QUESTION:
When I talk about my Facebook research, many people are unsettled - they seem to feel that when someone continues to interact with a person’s digital persona after the actual person has died, it’s pathological in some way - it says something concerning about the person (they’re in denial), or something worrying about our technologically-mediated society (that people are carrying on a relationship or a communication via the person’s digital persona). Is their concern well founded?

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NIKI LAMBROPOULOS {A:
One of my uncles died recently, a dearest one, like in June and I’ve never experienced this thing in my family before so I’m quite close to what this person says about being in denial because a lot of people in my family were in denial of accepting his death and looking, you know, towards the door to see whether he would be in, coming in or having the photo around or everything and I think, yes their concern is well founded because it’s quite similar to what happens in real life … so … people, I think people create attachments in a way this is how the world is created, we are related to each other, we are connected to each other, so when a person dies, either digitally or really, or just hangs up the phone and moves somewhere else or whatever, its absence as well. So I think that there is loss in our world anyway, a kind of feeling of loss and absence in one of our connections in a way. So perhaps we will keep trying to keep this connection, this link we have but perhaps its not possible, however we don’t realize that. I’m just thinking that, that’s how I see it but perhaps my mum would see it differently like, I dunno, probably she get some anger as well, so perhaps if a person does not communicate although its digitally
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NIKI LAMBROPOULOS
dead, then the one who wants the communication back might get angry as well as trying to communicate and being in denial, so its probably similar and its probably more then one feeling. There may be many feelings all together, coming and going, or simultaneously. I don’t think its pathological because I checked for the real death, right? Psychologically speaking its completely justified and if we keep the analogy for digital death, then in my opinion I don’t think its pathological. Perhaps its normal to a certain extent, like everything in life I suppose. So it might be ok to communicate, to keep trying to communicate but if this person keeps trying to communicate after a year or after you know some time that’s not logical then perhaps it gets pathological rather then normal. So perhaps there is kind of a thin line between the two, a limit or something, but I’m not the one, I don’t know there may be more work or research about it I don’t know.

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ANONYMOUS

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QUESTION:
The future of cloud computing is hazy. Younger generations will be putting lots of personal infomation on online “safes”, and will need to work out how to transfer it to alternative providers if and when the first provider proves inadequate. Considering this, what provisions are made by providers of Digital Death Websites for preservation of clients’ data and continuation of the fulfillment of clients’ wishes in case of the original provider’s non-performance due to bankruptcy, for instance? What about setting up a providers’ association to ensure compatibility and continuity?

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NATHAN LUSTIG {A:
Its actually a pretty good question. We get that all the time, so, I know what we are doing but I don’t know what other people are doing. We get this question a lot what happens if your site goes out of business, we get questions about whether were going to be around when someone needs to have access to the data. What we have come up with is we have put in place a portion of our investors money into a separate account and because our site is so cheap to actually run we have a two year runway to have all the servers and keep all the data secure so that if we do go out of business we will have access to be able to give all the data back to the people who had put it in and would delete it after the two year period. Within that two year period we would have taken all that data out and put it in another secure place if we were not going to be around anymore. There are a lot of different companies that are approaching the ideas of what happens to you digital stuff when you die, from all sorts of different angles. There are companies like us who are letting you put your user names and passwords in and say what you want with your stuff when you die, there are also companies allowing you to set up your last tweet or your last
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NATHAN LUSTIG
Facebook message, all these different sorts of things. There is even another one out there that will attempt to hack into a dead person’s online account if a survivor wants you to do it. So that’s why I think if you get all the different providers of services, it might be tough to make sure that compatibility would actually work because everyone’s approaching it from a different angle and no one’s going with it in the exact same way. The idea of a providers association to ensure compatibility sounds really interesting. It would be tough to get all the providers to do it, but if you could do it, it would make sense.

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YOLANDA KADING RGN

Yolanda is a Palliative Home Care Nurse at The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends. The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends was founded in 1986, at a time when cancer was still considered to be a curse, an incurable and frightening disease among the Cypriot population. The association was set up by a small but pioneering group of women, all of whom had already experienced cancer in one way or another. The associations aim was and continues to be: to disperse the taboo and fear surrounding cancer and thus provide quality care to cancer sufferers within the Cypriot community.

LINKS

www.cancercare.org.cy/EN/index.html

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QUESTION:
Following the death of a teenager at my sons’ school. His freinds put together a Facebook page entitled “RIP + his name.” Although part of me felt that it was a good way to honour his memory, allowing people to post comments and thoughts,I was very concerned about the effect that some of the comments may have had on his family. I guess that it’s a way of paying tribute to someone but it bothered me that he wasn’t around to give his permission for what seemed like a very public free for all. All in all it was very distressing for everyone. My question is who controls such postings and do the next of kin have to give permission to allow such a page to be opened.

R.I.P

R.I.P

R.I.P

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ELAINE KASKET {A:
This is a really interesting question and I am going to take the last bit of it first. The person who controls those postings on a memory site is the person or the people who have decided to set the site up, ie the administrators of the site and these are actually the people I interviewed in my research, my facebook research about their experience of being administrators of in memory sites. The next of kin do not have to have permission for that page to be opened in fact what sometimes happens is different groups of friends almost like rival factions will set up of in memory sites and sometimes that causes problems because one group of friends says ‘oh I’m really upset because everybody’s going to her memory site and going away from our memory site that we set up for our friend’ and so the relatives next of kin don’t have to give any permission what so ever. You can be a complete stranger and set up an in memory of site on facebook for somebody who has died. In my experience the administrators of those sites, were more often than not close friends or relatives, cousin’s, siblings, they will remove or take away comments they don’t think are appropriate so they tend to police
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ELAINE KASKET
the sites very carefully I think. I am not sure that it is that common for older generation members of the family, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc to get access to those pages unless somebody alerts them to the presence of them. People aren’t quite recognizing that what is happening on facebook in digital writing is the same thing that has always happened. People have always shown up at funeral homes and funerals and said inappropriate things, people have always competed for the role of chief mourner and like ‘oh no she was really important to me’ and ‘how dare you’, all that kind of stuff. It hasn’t been as public and as easily available and accessible to everyone. You know somebody might make a comment at a funeral and people hear it and they say oh my gosh you know that’s really inappropriate and then its gone into the either whereas on facebook if somebody doesn’t take it down - there it is. So it has a little bit more permanence. But in some ways I feel it is not much different from what has always happened its just a little bit more permanent and visible or it has more potential to make an impact than some passing comment that somebody might make at a funeral or wake or something of course anytime
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ELAINE KASKET
anybody dies they are not around to give permission and this is the younger generation who often at times the in memory sites get posted on facebook for younger people, often people who weren’t expecting to die and they weren’t in a place in their lives to say this is what I want to happen after my death this is how I want to be memorialised they haven’t got to that place yet they don’t do that, but nobody ever has any control or is around to give permission for what happens after their deaths and a lot of times some relatives or some friends are around saying he wouldn’t have wanted this or she wouldn’t have wanted this or this isn’t appropriate or whatever it is, but the whole facebook thing for one it opens it up to a much wider segment of the public as these in memory groups are almost always free to anybody who wishes to join so somebody might have had three hundred friends in life on their profile itself and “one thousand” friends in death on their in memory page that somebody sets up. So it is very public. So but “all in all it was very distressing for everyone” I’m wondering who the everyone was, I’m wondering what the comments were, it depends so much on…. Im not sure if it was the comments themselves or this
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ELAINE KASKET
was the form they were being made the facebook form or what in particular it is that was especially problematic, especially distressing because a lot of people who I interviewed for my facebook research said that the family found it really, really comforting and found it really lovely to see all the sentiments and the thoughts and comments and memories that everybody posted on, this in memory group and this is actually the first time I’ve encountered this description of this kind of memory site being “distressing “ for everyone, I haven’t come across this yet. I think one of the fascinating, mysterious or noteworthy things about this phenomenon of facebook in general. Not just as regards death but as regards society as a whole is that more and more we are interacting with these virtual others and telepresent people, yea we might know them in real life but we might ‘see’ or ‘hear’ a lot more from them via facebook or Skype or whatever else rather than actually physically being there with them and that in itself is unsettling for some people, that this is the way we are going as a society and as individuals and when that phenomenon caries through into death and we carry on interacting with that digital person or telepresent
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ELAINE KASKET
person rather than necessarily showing up. I can see in a way the people who are uneasy with what is happening with the facebook phenomena about death and everything might possibly be the same people who are unsettled by the impact such phenomena, such technology is having in life.

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AHMET SEKERCIOGLU

Dr. Ahmet Sekercioglu is a member of the academic staff at the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He was the leader of the Applications Program of Australian Telecommunications CRC until the completion of the centre’s research activities (December 2007). Prior to his academic career, he held numerous positions as a research engineer in private industry. He has published 14 journal articles, 2 book chapters, 56 conference papers and has filed 2 patents. His recent research is in distributed algorithms for self-organization in wireless networks. He is also working in the application of intelligent control techniques for multiservice networks as complex, distributed systems.

LINKS

http://titania.ctie.monash.edu.au

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Im still here!
1984

Im still here!
1984

Im still here!
1984

QUESTION:
Why do we exist?

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DEATH REFERENCE DESK{A:
The easiest answer to ‘why do we exist’ is because we humans have decided to and why we exist right now hinges upon what this ‘we’ is? who is this ‘we’? There was an American comedy programme called the Lone Ranger, there is a cowboy and he was almost killed by a group of bandits and then he was saved by this Native American figure named Tanto and he goes on to do good and justice and he shoots bad people with silver bullets. So he and Tanto where on their horses one time and there was this large group of Indians coming towards them on horses and they know they are going to die and they are wondering and he turns to Tanto and says “Well Tanto, it’s been good knowing you but looks like we’re gonna die” and Tonto goes “What do you mean we white man” and I think its that question who is the we? That becomes key because humans have decided that ‘we’ are the ‘we’, if you will in all of this and that the reason we exist is because we have decided that we do and that once another new definition of what constitutes the human comes about I think the current form we are in right now will no longer exist we will become something else. That’s inevitable but its also beyond our comprehension of when that will occur.
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The other reason we exist is we exist to die oddly if it makes any sense because of course the reason we have an existence is because it ends and if there is an end to the existence than its something else different to what we think of it as being.

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RICHARD BANKS

Richard Banks is a senior interaction designer for Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK. He’s part of a team that spends most of its time looking at family life, trying to understand the complexities of home, in order to figure out how the digital should fit in appropriately. He has a particular interest in how digital artifacts change hands when people pass away. Richard joined Microsoft after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London. Since then he’s worked as a design manager in Seattle on Microsoft’s Office, Windows and MSN products before moving home and into research a number of years ago.

LINKS

www.richardbanks.com/?page_id=1350 www.richardbanks.com/?p=1987

CONTACT ME
@rbanks

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QUESTION:
How are digital and physical heirlooms different and the same when it comes to sentimentality and reminiscing?

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DEATH REFERENCE DESK{A:
The key between the digital and physical heirloom idea, which in a sense means you can have the same object in two different representational forms is this: that the physical heirloom as regard sentimentality and reminiscing still has a tactical quality to it so you can still touch it, you can still feel it, you can still handle it and that actually is something that we humans for a long time actually have enjoyed in terms of remembering somebody who has died or actually even a past experience, that object that we can look at sometimes even smell to have a kind of sensory experience of what has occurred in the past where as now in terms of the digital object for both sentimentality and reminiscing it exists right now at least, purely in the realm of the represented object usually in the form of a photo but it could also be a song, this is another thing too, which you could have a kind listening experience. But we will go back to just the photo, so the photo itself as an object is something we can look at and have a visual experience with that triggers in our brain memories of what has gone on but it is not a tactile experience per say and there are people who will argue with this as to what is the nature
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DEATH REFERENCE DESK
of touch or tactility however what I would say is that becomes in the next step where the digital object is not just a photo but you are actually able to reproduce it, in a way that doesn’t take any real time or money or even work so that you can have that object wherever you go, you can carry the object with you on your phone as one example or keep then online and look whenever you want to, of a kind of object experience of a person who has died and we actually already have these kinds of technology, in terms of 3D printing, where you can actually put the photo in the printer and the 3D object is printed, now its not an exact replica because things are a little different but never the less, this becomes the first generation of what those objects will become. Where we are right now is in a transition period between the two and the digital heirloom needs the entire past human history of the physical heirloom to know where to go or give, people working in these fields an idea of what to try and create or produce, because people will use it they will want it once it is there, especially for funerals.

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PEREGRINE ANDREWS

Peregrine Andrews is a radio producer and sound designer. He was recently involved in the production of i-shrine (BBC Radio 4), a radio documentery which discussed issues of death and morning in the online space: broadcast on the 21st May 2010.

LINKS

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8691238.stm www.moving-air.com

CONTACT ME
@pezzatronic

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QUESTION:
In an age where so much of what we do is recorded in some way, possibly forever, what place does forgetting have? (I.e. when is it better to forget?)

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ANTONIS TRYPHONOS {A:
There is this school in psychology called Jung, Jung spoke about two types of memory. The present memory and the memory of our ancestors and that’s the archetypes its kind of like we carry within our genes images and dreams that maybe they don’t really belong to us but they belong to our ancestors and that’s what we call social consciousness and it is with this information that we have that is being recorded in some way and all of it is recorded, it will be much more difficult to escape from the subconscious level of having this information coming up again and again. So, its like an automatic reminder of our past that maybe we would like to forget but we are not able to. So forgetting, it depends on how we use the cues of the information we have but its much easier to retain information as I feel it and to bring up from the subconscious level to the conscious level using the information as cues to bring us back to those memories. Its like dreams, when we see dreams we exactly don’t remember the whole situation we might take it from different stimulators we remember from the dream and that stimulator will get us into the more conscious level of the memories that we have instead of
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ANTONIS TRYPHONOS
the unconscious level. The mind I feel its gonna peak at the end it doesn’t matter how much information we have it will the select the information it would like to remember and forgetting again or remembering again it’s a part of what information you would really like to retain although the information will be just there available at the end I feel it will balance.

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PROF. JANIS JEFFERIES

Janis Jefferies is is an artist, writer and curator, Professor of Visual Arts in the Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London,Director of thte Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles and Artistic Director of Goldsmiths Digital Studios. GDS is dedicated to collaborations among practicing artists, cultural and media theorists, and innovators in computational media,who together are expanding the boundaries of artistic practice, forging the future of digital technologies and developing new understanding of the interactions between technology and society

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QUESTION:
What do we choose to remember--and to forget? How are collective memories formed? How are memories revised and shaped by the media used to present them?
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DEATH REFERENCE DESK{A:
Well the first question what do we chose to remember and forget, that is really interesting because I think that there’s a bit of a problem some people are having now individuals say, in the first world North America, Europe and the UK is that there is a problem in which they don’t know any longer what to choose to remember and what to forget or they are having a problem actually remembering the things they should remember and an inability to forget the things that probably don’t really matter. There’s become such an overload of information and so many people have become dependent on continually using whatever device they use for information for email or looking at the news that they are going through everything and reading everything but they are not remembering any of it, I have a hunch I don’t know but I have a hunch this is spilling over into people’s everyday lives, it’s not like they are forgetting say appointments where they have to meet someone, but I think they are forgetting events things that have occurred. The last part of the question, that’s been asked is how memories are revised and shaped by the media used to present them. are and immediate ways to present them. I think the growing
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DEATH REFERENCE DESK
concern and this isn’t a new one is the dependence that some people are beginning to have on whatever the device they use in order to remember events they think they should kind of remember without a backup device for example being able to always pull up a video of an event say something important like your kids talking for the first time or walking, or a funeral eulogy. An individual becomes dependant on that device to feel like he or she can actually remember what it was about, as opposed to feeling comfortable with their memory even though everyone knows memories are of course fallible and things change and things happen over time and it becomes something else and you may actually believe something to be actually true but if you go back and look it’s not this at all. So I think there is a growing insecurity on the authenticity of the memory that is growing dependant on the actual recording of it through whatever device is being used. Even then I am not sure in fact its going to assist memory, in part because of course, what you are looking at is some device re-showing some event that occurred in say video form, which may not be what actually happened either and those kinds of representations themselves can come
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DEATH REFERENCE DESK
with a certain certainty. And that gets to the last part which is how are collective memories formed, well I that’s the big question now. What is the collective memory; I will give you one classic example of this in the American context which there has always been since September 11 2001 a big push to discuss the collective memory of 9/11 for America and there is no collective memory of 9/11 for America, people had very different kinds of reactions at that time and continued to have different reactions and in fact the reactions and attitudes and concepts of what occurred on that day have continued to striate and have become polarised than they were initially. I think the very idea of the collective memory is now is formed zero kind of opposition between what it is and what it is not which exists simultaneously so it is both this and not this. In part because you find people who have both conflicting ideas all the time and that has a lot to do with politics and what goes on with the idea of the nation. Memory is a big ongoing issue and humans have been tinkering with this for at least well before the 19th century but certainly we came up with early forms of photography and the geriotypes and the idea of
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DEATH REFERENCE DESK
representing what we are seeing in visual form that could be reproducible and made more quickly into a painting, this has altered the very idea of what human memory is capable of and in fact there are a lot of people who would argue that in fact human memory began its great descent, when finally things were put in visual form as opposed to having to understand it and think it through it terms of its narrative form.

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ROB WALKER

Rob Walker is a journalist who writes about consumer behaviour, Internet culture, and other subjects. He writes a popular article for the New York Times Magazine called ”Consumed” and his recently published works include: “Buying In” a book which is an overview of branding and the evolving relationship between brands and the consumer.

LINKS

www.robwalker.net

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QUESTION:
One thing that motivated me to get interested in the subject in the first place was the idea of “too much evidence” -- is it possible that we leave behind such overwhelming amounts of minutia that it may actually be harder for the historical researchers of the future to understand who we were?

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RICHARD BANKS {A:
My background is basically in product design, the design of physical things and I moved gradually into interaction design which is the design of digital things and so one of the things I am fascinated by is what is the difference between our experience with physical artefacts and the way we leave them behind and the way other people inherit them and digital artifacts all these things we collect on our hard drives we collect on DVDs and we put up in the cloud and how will those be inherited and I think for me there is no question that one of the big differentiates between the physical things and the digital things is the amount of stuff we are collecting. The physical things, for example, are constrained in the amount of space we have in our homes, so a lot of us have boxes in our basements and boxes in our lofts that contain physical things that we cant bring ourselves to throw away, they are very precious to us but eventually we fill up these spaces and we have to make these kind of hard decisions about what we keep and what we get rid of and we are not forced to do that with digital things, When we take shots with a digital camera we are not forced to pay for every single shot as we used to have to with analogue
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RICHARD BANKS
cameras so we can take thousands of shots and just record as much as we like. So this is actually a tremendous opportunity so when my grandfather died a few years ago he left behind a suitcase full of analogue photos and there were only 200, maybe 300 photos in different envelopes, luckily a lot of them had dates and places on them which is quite rare for those things, it gave me this very kind of narrow insight into his life and where he spent his time and who he spent his time with and I would have wished that there was an awful lot more about him particularly what mattered to him in his life before I was born. I was born the year before he was retired so I knew him very much as a retired person. So, if he was living a life now, I think there would be a lot more digital stuff about him so digital photos taken by him or off him and his digital life online even his records of his services and where he lived etc that would tell me a lot more about the way he lived than I would have got in the past. The issue is then of course, how you manage all this content and I think one of the ways in which our relationship to a lot of this content that is left behind when we pass away will change is that we cant experience it all, in the way we
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RICHARD BANKS
were able to with analogue content. I could sit down with my grandfathers photos and flip through his 200 photos and really study and think about them. I realize that if I carry on taking photos at the rate I do my daughter will inherit about 200 000 digital photos from me and I don’t expect her to sit down and go through every single one of those and it means that our relationship with all that content becomes more serendipities. The really amazing thing about digital content is you can take 200, 000 photos and put them all on random and have an experience with that content that is kind of spontaneous and draws up memories that are more unexpected so there are really things you can do with digital content that makes that experience with them quite a rich, and unexpected compared to how we might have had those experiences with analogue content. Now when it comes to actual research that of course is a kind of a personal experience of the person that you know. When it comes to actual research I think to some extent the question is: what are the tools and technologies that researchers of the future might use to reassemble
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RICHARD BANKS
and understand a person’s life and actually I think to some extent certainly as far as digital things are concerned, as a researcher I’d rather have too much stuff to go through that can tell me an awful lot about a person or give me a lot of ammunition to reassemble a person’s life than a lot less content. So as far as digital content is going for example, we have a team in Cambridge that works on machine learning so all about how the computer itself can be used as a tool to make sense of different content and reassemble content and bring to a persons attention things that might matter to you vs things that might matter less so I think there are a lot of room for digital tools to be built that allow researchers to dig in, vertically into content instead of just kind of skimming over the top of this vast amount of digital data.

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DR. BRITTA RENSING

Britta Rensing was born in Cologne, Germany where she studied English Literature and Language and Religious Studies at the University of Cologne, Rheinische Friedrich-WilhelmsUniversity of Bonn and FriedrichSchiller-University of Jena. PhD in Religious Studies at the FriedrichSchiller-University of Jena. Fields of study / lectures on neopaganism, wicca, asian ghost movies.

LINKS

http://www.tectum-verlag.de/9486_ Britta_Rensing_Die_Wicca-Religion_ Theologie_Rituale_Ethik.html http://www.db-thueringen.de/ servlets/DocumentServlet?id=7577

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QUESTION:
How do you think people imagine themselves dying, in the modern Digital Age?

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YOLANDA KADING {A:
I would imagine that some people perhaps imagine themselves living on, in the digital age. It brings to mind the question of where does it all stop and when do people call it a day, after the death of someone. With something like Facebook in mind which is very personal to me as a Facebook addict almost, I wonder when after the death of someone when this does this information get taken off Facebook, and who is it that decides when to call it a day? I don’t necessarily think that the digital age. It certainly hasn’t affected my concept of death and dying and I don’t really think it enters into it. I think the digital age um has given people the ability to go through the dying process more publically and perhaps to feel that they are not so alone. In that they can put postings on the computer for other people all over the world to see and for their friends to see and even if they cant get out and cant leave their bed if they have the ability to use the computer or to get somebody else to use it for them then they can share what they are going through more easily and plus I guess they can post photographs of themselves and feel that they are not so alone
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YOLANDA KADING
It gives people a voice I guess, a public voice but also it gives people access to information which perhaps, well which wasn’t available to people years ago so they are more alert and aware about what might happen to them, what might be round the corner. There is so much out there for them to access. But what really rings in my mind is the not feeling that you are so alone, but also the way somebody might be affected once they cant access the computer any more. Um whilst they are in a position.. if somebody is dying and in a position to use the computer I would imagine they will feel they are not alone, but once they cant access the computer then perhaps it’s a premature death for them a premature morning a morning for them as well.

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ESTHER MAKAAY

Creative by nature, a philosopher at heart and (techno)logic in mind, I enjoy my front row seat of Internet history by working on new business development at SIDN, the Dutch registry for the .nl-domain.

CONTACT ME
@esthermakaay

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QUESTION:
The analogy to “if your house burned down, and there’s one thing (not person or pet) you could save, what would it be?” So the analogy follows, that if the Internet burned down, and there was one specific thing you could save/rescue, what would that be? (Answers might consist of an account to a social networking site, the e-mail to a specific address, the digital photo’s you publish somewhere, your address-book, but not everything, like ‘my digital backup’.)

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0100011001 Ahhhhhhhh SAVE ME!

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ROB WALKER {A:
I guess there is two ways of thinking about this, one is a less interesting short term way, you know if, if you told me the internet was going to burn down right now I would want to sort of protect my email because it’s a lot of live communication that is still going on there that I would be in trouble if I lost but… I think that probably the more interesting thing would be…, I am an unusual case I guess because I am a writer I have a lot of finished public published works online like at the New York Times site and some other sites but in particular probably the finished work, the published work, on the Times site I would like that to ah survive and the personal projects is a difficult one, there is a project that I am involved in that I am involved in actually called significant objects that’s about, its sort of fiction it’s about thrift store objects and I would like that probably of the work that I have done of the stuff that I have done that isn’t sort of you know residing on a mainstream publication website that is probably the thing that I would most like to survive but it would be a pretty tough call. because there is some other personal, you know but all of this is more work related stuff, like and work meaning both what I do for a living, but
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ROB WALKER
also just projects that are not so much about me as about, well they are about me but they are work that I’ve done as opposed to just like my personal photographs or you know I have a Facebook account and all that kinda stuff but I have very little there that I would be to terribly heartbroken to lose, so I guess it’s a kind of a traditional answer, in that I want work to survive as opposed to, as opposed to personal stuff. Personal stuff I would probably, if I ever get my act together would see to it in fact, that it doesn’t survive me. I just want the work that I feel like has been, the stuff that I feel like has been really thought through, vetted and well while it may be less personal, its more important to me that that stuff survive.

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PROF. JOHN WOOD

John’s main focus, at present, is the development of a new approach to design practice: ‘metadesign’. John’s first job at Goldsmiths was Deputy Head of the Fine Art Department (from 1978-1988). After ten years he co-wrote, and ran, an unusually broad, reflective and ethically oriented BA(Hons) degree in design. This programme helped to launch the current Department of Design. John has published over 100 papers and articles on ethics and design in the age of over consumption. His first book, ‘The Virtual Embodied’ (Routledge, 1998) explored the ethical implications of different types of situated practice and his most recent book “The Design of MicroUtopias; thinking beyond the possible” (Ashgate, 2007) suggests that we can govern ourselves better using ‘design thinking’.

LINKS

http://metadesigners.org/tiki/tikiindex.php

CONTACT ME
@metadesigners
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QUESTION:(VOICE-ACTOR)
They have just discovered a new star [sun] that is 250 times bigger than any they thought to be physically possible...can a deeper awareness/ empathy with the vast universe, through the sharing of oneself and the virtual embodiment enabled through the mass of digital networks, make the idea of one’s own physical death seem less like a tragic erasure of ego, and more like a privileged submersion into an ancestral ocean?

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AHMET SEKERCIOGLU {A:
What is that?! I need to think carefully now… I think eh. What I am thinking is, its definitely... I don’t agree with that. I, I think that physical death is definitely a tragic erasure of ego, I don’t care about getting submerged into an ancestral ocean because I won’t be aware of it anyway, therefore I disagree. Um, that’s my thought at the moment. At least theoretically it is possible. Yes I think it is theoretically possible that human body will become less important in the future that you just store your consciousness into a medium which will be… wont die basically and will refresh itself somehow through some kind of energy source. Would that be…. would that be…. make the physical death redundant or less like a tragic erasure of ego? It is possible Yes Yes it is possible. but we are long long way away from that, maybe a thousand years.

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NIELS DE JONG

Niels de Jong is a Research Masters student in Groningen, The Netherlands. His main focus is religion and modernity, specialising in Christianity in Western-Europe. In his academic future he would like to write his master thesis on David Icke, a conspiracy theorist who spreads his ideas mainly through the Internet but also organizes a lot of seminars to which all kinds of people are drawn. Furthermore on a personal level, he like to read (currently reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy) and listen to music (metal, blues, jazz, reggea etc.) Play the MMOG Travian and play ‘real-life’ RISK with friends.

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QUESTION:
Is it possible to draw any parallels between recent developments in the music industry regarding something people like to call ‘fusion’, a mixture of musical styles which doesn’t represent a single genre and the boom of Internet data that creates mass de-contextualization of personal data. As with the example of ‘fusion’ music is there anything perhaps to be gained from engaging in this ‘rich’ mix?

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MICHELA MAGAS {A:
The whole of the internet is already a data fusion, I mean that’s the whole principle of the whole thing. In many ways I think the idea of the fusion in music happened more as a result of the data fusion that was enabled by technologies as opposed to the other way round, as fusion always happens at the crossover of cultures. One of the best things that happened in Britain was the integration of second generation Punjabi culture into western music and some great stuff has emerged out of that. So things at those junctions.. things always end up very interesting.. but the whole of the world wide web concept is that, intrinsicly. So is there anything to be gained? Well, everything really it’s everything that we’ve done and that we know and that we’ve based our lives on in recent times really, that has been a result of the fusion. There is a fusion of the different personalities that you have left behind (famously we do generate personalities for each type of application: it requires us to generate a personality) and depending on what that application is for, you will be a different person on facebook (famously) then you are on Linkedin for instance, (I mean - that’s like
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MICHELA MAGAS
a cliché..) but that’s how it is.. so if you collate the lot, you see how this person sees themselves in terms of one and not the other. There is a personality fusion that happens between all those different portals. So from the stuff that you leave behind there will be bits that apply to different parts of your life, that are quite different. But that again I think is a reflection of this medium its whatever you try and draw out of people, how it’s installed in the first place: the tools kind of dictate, the tools kind of inform you as to what they want from you as well.. so how is that going to reflect? There is more of a fusion going on than just the few key pointers that some of these available tools show about a person.. there’s more then that and it would be really interesting to see, if you started with this in mind (started creating a fusion personality - started creating a fusion of different tools that will enable a personality to show different aspects of oneself in one place) how that would look, because you are so limited by what you are asked to be in different places on the web, you almost sort of have to conform to be a particular type or... Just think of the rubbish interface on LinkedIn
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MICHELA MAGAS
(am I allowed to say rubbish without someone throwing a libel case at me? :)) I mean its completely hopeless, you have to be the good boy who is employed, who has regular jobs from this date to that date, otherwise you don’t fit in.. so even people who don’t have anything of the sort.. they tend to box themselves into something in order to actually be on that site. So you end up with a fusion of stuff that’s almost like “boxy things”.. so what kind of fusion are you going to get out of that? :) It would be an interesting thing to look at what would genuinely create a fusion, a digital fusion. What would that really look like?.. I think it would be an interesting thing to look at.. so I mean, its not a rich mix with the tools that we have available at the moment..

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DUNCAN FAIRFAX

Duncan lectures on the MA Design Critical Practice, and MRes in Design at Goldsmiths. He is also the PhD research associate on the “Mediatised View” research project that is part of the larger Leverhulme funded Goldsmiths research programme on the “Future of Media.” His research interests include the limitations and contraints of the “productivist metaphysics” of design theory and practice, the significance of various strains within contemporary “materialist” philosophy to their possible reconceptualisation, and the question of the “ontogenetic” quality of design in general.

LINKS

http://www.aut.ac.nz/material_ thinking/materialthinking2/people/ consultingauthors.html

CONTACT ME
@duncanfairfax

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QUESTION:
Is there any fundamental difference between the so called “technological” and the “natural” or is the natural always already intrinsically supplemented by the technological – especially in the context of the human condition – and if this is the case how do we begin to construct any basis from which to critique or evaluate the question of the ethical significance of the technological mediate of our condition, whether that is asked in the context of emotion, bereavement, grief, or identity.

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STACEY PITSILLIDES {A:
I think I am going to break down this question a little bit slowly and try and answer each bit a little bit in turn. So, the first part of the question talks about this idea of whether there is any difference between the technological and the natural, or is the natural is already intrinsically supplemented by the technical? Now in my readings thus far especially looking at the work of Bernard Stiegler. There a codevelopment of our societies and the way we exist within the world and our technics so the way we develop technologies and the way we are developing within those systems, so to think about something like the human condition perhaps there is no way of separating out what is intrinsically natural and what is perhaps something we that have created and thus becomes technological. So then, to take it a bit further how do we begin to construct any basis from which to critique or to evaluate, the question of ethical significance so I guess that means we have to go back and really think about what is it we are really making, if we are as human being in the human condition making the internet than how does that actually effect our lives in a really kind of pragmatic way and how
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do we begin to evaluate that, when we are so intrinsically built into these systems. And if these systems are actually having an effect on how our brains work and how our minds work, than perhaps there really is no way of really stepping back from that and beginning to ethically kind of evaluate it in any kind of a real way but I guess the question is maybe we have to try. It talks about the ethical significance of the technological mediate of our condition and whether that is asked in the context of emotion, bereavement. So, perhaps when we are talking about something as emotionally charged as bereavement, grief and identity we do need to think about the way we act within these systems and how these systems are affecting us and perhaps progression does not always mean going forward, perhaps there is a way other than the technologically mediated society to readdress these issues and to think about how these things like bereavement, grief or identity are being augmented or changed within the virtual space. And that is a question I think for our futures, that should be an important part of us going ‘forward,’ because perhaps like I said forward is not forward.

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JUDI CLARK

Judi Clark has been involved with the subject of identity and identity management for many years. She’s blogged (on other blogs) about this since late 2002. Judi is a personal coach, and a group coach. If you want to get personal about your self (or selves) she is the person to call on. She is also a business coach for companies who wish to understand who they are and what path they might take into this new “social media” world. She is a unique interpreter and trail guide here to support your interests.

LINKS

http://digitalIDcoach.com/

CONTACT ME
@judico @IDcoach

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QUESTION:
When someone dies, others grieve the loss. The grieving process is healing for those that continue living. To aid in the healing process, we might wish to give advance thought to how we want to be remembered in the digital domain. What questions should we be asking to help guide us? Should we and how can we begin to develop “Best Practices” or “Frequently Asked Questions” about this?

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ROLAND VAN RIJSWIJK {A:
That’s a very hard question to answer because to be able to answer that question you need to have already thought how you want to be remembered offline in the real world and that is in itself a difficult question to answer, right? Do you want to be buried, would you like to be cremated, would you like a church service etc and this adds a whole new dimension to the dilemma and I guess people feel uncomfortable thinking about their own death and how they would like to be remembered. So I guess online the same thing applies. If you think about this are you willing to write that down etc. It’s a hard question to answer. At the moment there are, if for instance you get an insurance in case you die, they usually help you with a questionnaire about what kind of things you would want at a funeral um so I guess that could be extended to include online remembrance for instance, would you like websites, would you like a register where people can type their condolences for family and friends, what would you like this website to look like would you like pictures on it, of you, or of things you enjoyed etc so I think that could probably be incorporated into a process like that and this
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ROLAND VAN RIJSWIJK
probably also applies to the person from the insurance company who visits the people that are left behind. Right now, when someone dies the owner of the funeral home or whatever organization is going to arrange the funeral usually comes by to discuss options with the families and perhaps they should include something like an on line page where people could offer their condolences or an on line page, which contains an area where people could leave memories of the deceased and I think that is something that could be incorporated into some existing processes.

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ANTONIS TRYPHONOS

Antonis Tryphonas has a MA in Psychology as well as an Masters in Health Administration.

Since 2000 he has worked for The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends, as a psychologist as part of the home care team. His research interests include bereavement, end of life care and the burden placed on care givers.

LINKS

www.pasykaf.org.cy

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QUESTION:
My question is can we make a list of all the people we would like to receive an emotional response from us after we are dead? And how would we go about creating this ‘emotional response’ digitally?

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NATHAN LUSTIG {A:
So the question is asking is there something we can send almost like an e-card? When you wouldn’t know exactly what to say, like “I was thinking about you” or “you affected my life”. If I were to die it would get sent out after I was dead to people that I wasn’t really good friends with but people that I might’ve connected with a little bit or something like that. I think there is definitely a place for creating a list of friend’s maybe facebook friends or twitter followers people that you just have online connections to or even offline connections to but are not people you would see every day or even every week, that you might not have a deep connection to. I think there is definitely a space in this industry, and just in the digital afterlife to be able to send someone out that notifies everyone that everyone that you actually have died. Sort of a little bit of a pivot on this question is how will we know when our friends die even 50 years ago people would look in the newspaper for obituaries to find out when someone had died but I cant actually remember the last time I look at a physical newspaper and so if one of my friends were to die or someone in my family
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NATHAN LUSTIG
were to die except for my close family I might find out on line either via email or facebook or twitter or something like that and its going to be interesting to see how that changes or develops from a former industry that was all on paper to being digital and how that effects people getting notified about death. Would facebook and twitter be too impersonal or would you rather have a phone or a service or something I am not really sure where it will end up but I definitely do believe there is going to be a space for notification and emotional response to those people who are not in your close circle of friends and family but you still want to let people know you have died.

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WAS DESIGNED CURATED AND DOCUMENTED BY STACEY PITSILLIDES

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