Saturday 13 October 2012

An Insight into Digital Death Day London!

Digital Death Day 2012 was an exciting collision of people from different backgrounds, with vastly different experiences and perspectives on the concept of death and digitality. 

We started the day by setting the agenda (translation: writing in that moment what we felt like discussing with the various experts/ interesting people that were in attendance). As a PhD student/academic I am currently putting together a chapter on the relationship between the physical body and technology, including what happens to this relationship when a person dies, so my session was called: Embodiment, Authenticity and Technology (this title was also inspired by Sherry Turkle's recent book: Alone Together). Whereas Andriana (my fellow co-organizer) being an entrepreneur and designer wanted to conduct her session as a kind of mini-focus group discussing various aspects of Announcing Death and Mourning Online as she is in the process of developing a platform which would aid people in this process (further notes/ audio of sessions will appear shortly on 

Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit: 
Myself and Andriana getting excited about our our discussion topics!

Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
As a side note: Digital Death and privacy seem to go hand in hand as a main concern of this community. I don't think we have ever had a Digital Death Day where this was not a central theme and it certainly gets discussed as a part of other sessions as well. There are mounting concerns regarding what will happen to our data after we die including the lagging legal framework, the conflicting terms and conditions of major players in the industry and the lack of education for young people in relation to understanding what it means to post something (public) online. 

Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
After some coffee and breakfasty stuff its time to construct the agenda by placing the sessions we want to run on the wall and designating a time and place where that conversation will take place. This is also when the four guidelines of unconferencing make their appearance (the below were very well phrased by The Usual Suspects so I borrowed and adjusted their explanations):
  1. Whoever shows up is the right people… reminds participants that they don’t need “world-famous death expert guru X” and 100 people to learn something, or to have an interesting time. What we do need are people who care (world-famous or not :) )
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time …reminds participants that “spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.”.
  3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have …reminds participants that once something has happened, it’s done. Spontaneity and ‘going with the flow’ are important, and this is one of the guidelines which creates a space in which unexpected things can happen.
  4. When it’s over, it’s over …reminds participants that we never know how long it will take to dive into a topic, once raised, but that whenever the discussion or work or conversation is finished, move on to the next thing.
Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
So with these guidelines in mind and a relaxed attitude we begin our conversation about Annoucing Death and Mourning Online: How to strike a Personal/ useful balance, in the comfy chair space ;-)

Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
As a second side note: we also had BBC Radio 4 there during the day conducting interviews for the final part of 'The Digital Human' series, presented by Aleks Krotofski, which will focus particularly on the topic of Digital Death. 
Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
As the day progressed and we felt ourselves losing energy Kaliya (identitywoman) started a doodling session to run alongside our conversation about how terminally ill patients engage with the idea of what happens to their data after they die and how the hospices and old age homes deal with (or don't deal with as the case may be) internet access and patients blogging. 

Photography by: Vered (Rose) Shavit:
The day ended with pages of notes and colors, some new ideas, collaborations, contacts and lots to think about and process. Unconferencing is definitely my favorite form of work gathering, as it is really a working event that feel like a social event, made up of people talking about the things they are interested in and passionate about. 

As I was told on my first attendance of an unconference in San Fransisco (the Internet Identity Workshop): the most useful things that happen at a conference do not usually occur while listening to people present their papers. They are generally the strange conversations and serendipitous encounters that happen during the coffee breaks, the lunch and the after party. So we decided to create an event that was like one long coffee break!

Happy Unconferencing!  

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