Welcome to digital death

‘Since it’s creation in the late 1960s, the internet, has been a wealth of easily accessible information on any topic, a useful tool. However in recent years, it’s status as a ‘tool’ for knowledge extraction has been far surpassed. The internet has become an engaging space where people choose to spend time; socializing, buying, selling and living. The movement of the internet from informational navigation tool to a community marks a new form of social phenomenon.’


Although describing the internet as a ‘community’ is certainly not groundbreaking, this word, this ‘community,’ was my spark and continues to be central to my research into virtuality. I observe, firstly my own immersion in the digital world, with the hope of extrapolating some of 'the complex interrelations between a person's personal computer and their digital self.’


This blog will hopefully give you an insight into my head and how I have become fascinated by the socio-virtual space, divulging into areas of the digital world, I have termed:


Digital Death, Digital Afterlife and Digital Heritage.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Science Fiction: Looking to the Future!

I would like to take the opportunity to contrast two examples from popculture; science fiction films. I believe these examples will enrich my notion of digital death and allow me to use my collection of real life events to consider how one may begin to design for the future. The two films I have chosen to cross evaluate were both released in 2004 and run along parallel themes, both broadly considering peoples relationship to memory.



{1} The Final Cut is a film which considers what the world would be like if we had the option to implant a ‘Zoe chip’ in our baby’s head. This chip would then record every second of life through the person’s own eyes. Upon the person’s death this chip would then be removed, edited by a ‘cutter,’ in accordance to the wishes of the family and used within a ‘rememory’. The characters within this film, consider this a way of preserving important memories. In one of the scenes the cutter asks the bereaved family “do you recall any moments with your daughter?...I need you, your family to choose those moments you want to keep.” However some of the characters are
seen, throughout the film, to rebel against these sentiments. “I couldn’t take it, I just couldn’t stay, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t him and I wanted to remember him my way.” This statement reiterates the human need for memories not to be tainted. By looking at this audio-visual life document do we run the risk of ‘losing’ our own memory of past events and recalling only the document? In another scene one the cutters innocently reveals a fatal flaw in the system of ‘rememory,’ she states “we have to make story decisions, otherwise there will be no rememory.” This led me to consider all forms of archive and on-line memory and question who can make these ‘story’ decisions, who is qualified to make that choice? And how does the sewing together of memories (or information) change or give false images of who this person actually was? There are also many cases where people within the film use the system of ‘Rememory’ to literally edit their lives. One character claims, “my husband was a great man...he deserves to be remembered as a great man... I’ve seen rememories where the cutters were careless; they had no respect for
the dead.” This brings home the idea that having a ‘rememory’ is not for the person who is dead, it is instead a chance to give the living, the ability to construct the narrative of their loved ones life, the life they would have liked to have and to erase all the bad memories with powerful images and cinematography, that will remain lodged in their brain and eventually inhabit the place of old ‘real’ memories, creating a person who in death has become exactly who they wanted them to be. Both publicly and personally. “These implants destroy personal history, therefore all history” If every person’s personal history is to be selected, curated and edited. When we look back a hundred years from now, what will we see?

{2} Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film centred around a fictional company, ‘Lucuna cooperation’s’ which has “perfected a safe, effective technique for the focused erasure of troubling memories." In their press release they state “Why remember a destructive love affair?...[when] in a matter of hours our patented, non-surgical procedure will rid you of painful
memories and allow you a new and lasting piece of mind.” The film centres around a couple who have broken up and end up using ‘this’ service. Clem, one of the main characters “decided to erase [her X] almost as a lark.” Throughout the film, as you live out ‘Joel’s’ soon to be erased memories, you are constantly being led to question whether it is better to forget an episode of your life because it is painful or to consider that perhaps, the most painful memories of our lives are also probably the most valued and valuable? Characters who believe in ‘Lucuna’ defend it, saying, “to let people begin again, it’s beautiful.” However as the film progresses it becomes clear that all characters become caught up in either questioning the ethics of this company or abusing their position of power. The main character in particular realizes that losing the memory of his X-love is akin to losing her all over again, forever and during her erasure is forced to relive the beauty of their relationship together, through this exquisite agony, he exclaims “please let me keep this memory, just this one!” By the time Alexander Pope is quoted, near the end of the film, by an employee of Lucuna, who is intoxicated and flirting with a married man: “How happy is the blameless Vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d,” This quote begins to sound almost
tongue in cheek and the title “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” transforms into an ironic ‘wish.’ Which as with most wishes leads not to ‘eternal peace’ but to receiving ‘exactly what you asked for’ which is in this case; ignorance, emptiness and absence.

Group Dynamics: Converge and Diverge.



Diagram depicting how the digital space has enabled "ridiculously easy group-forming," (Shirkey, 2008). This allows for the potential convergence of an infinite amount of members in a group. However the fact that every person experiences and engages with an event in an original way means that groups also diverge and split when people realize their 'differences'. So at the other end of the scale because no one can experience an event in the same way as you, you could also comprise your own individual group (of one).

Death Spans



This is an info-graphic which depicts the inequality of how much time each individual has to come to terms with his or her death.


Networks In Crisis: Relative Strangers


Relative Strangers considers the affect 'death' has on family networks in the diaspora. To do this it takes a step back and begins to deconstruct the relationships of family members questioning whether it is possible to form close relationships when mediated over huge geographical distances. By tapping into the rich fields of cognitive science, philosophy, bereavement and virtual management; a proposal is built up which considers the development of a new form of 'audio ritual' (shared broadcast.) Allowing each family member the option be 'linked' through a tapestry of shared soundscapes. By locating this ritual around a fairly mundane event, i.e. eating dinner. The project aims to highlight the opportunity of evoking a new audio-ritual, giving families in the diaspora the opportunity of getting to know dispersed family members on the micro-scale (as you do when living together) without pressuring people to communicate directly.

Project Presentation can be found at: http://www.vimeo.com/11159627



Networks in Crisis : Microsoft Research Lab Cambridge.

Brief: to consider, both critically as design students who are informed by many of the most recent debates within the discourse of design and contemporary social, cultural, and critical theory, and practically as designers who are aware of the radically transformative potential of design, some of those key social, cultural, political, economic and environmental concerns that have arisen latly in relationship to the question of ever increasing involvement in those various "networks" - whether material or immaterial - that are increasingly "in-forming" the very nature of the world in which we currently exist. Microsoft is a major contributor to the field of "network" technologies, i.e. technologies that allow us to create systems or "networks" of communication and connection between different people, places and things.

"how might we possibly design, or perhaps even more appropriatly, re-design or redirect the essential nature of these technologies and the networks that they create in a way that is capable of not only revealing but also possibly remedying many of those essentially dehumanising, disincarnating, and destructive qualities of their nature that seem to be such an intrinsic part of their existence - and the "crises" that they produce"

(5 week project)