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Death is inevitable. And many believe that there is no after life. However your legacy can live on through the digital network you have left behind. Your persona lives on through others talking about you.

My intention is to make people aware of the digital afterlife that continues a persona legacy once dead.

My solution will look at the change of use of social media used to commemorate a persons death and life.

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Now that I have summarised my intention down to  – Traditional Mourning vs Digital Mourning – I have loosely figured out what the two main solutions could be.

First off I have basic data.
One thing that I found out yesterday was that each day on twitter there are 340 Million tweets, and based on an estimate of a 1% – 24hr sample of RIP hashtags, I have found that around 1.5 Million tweets contain RIP within them. This piece of data shows how much people write and contribute online about people who are no longer with us. ( I was also looking at facebook but there is not a definite number of memorial pages or even RIP groups, you can get a guess of how many people have died since their online profiles, but this doesn’t mean their page has been memorialised.)

Secondly I have old vs new.
I have looked at the way people mourn throughout researching this project so I have a clear list of what traditions have been in place when mourning someones death. I have focused mostly on the Christian type of funeral, as this is the only kind I have been to therefore I have some facts and first hand experience of this process. I also have come across the new process too. RIP tweets, Memorial Pages, Memorial Websites, etc.

Now that I have these two directs of how I can organise my information I must create at minimum of 10 visuals to explain my intention.

Summary:
INTENTION: Traditional Mourning vs Digital Mourning

SOLUTION 1: Using the data collected about much death is talked about online – which evidences our new found mourning outlet.

SOLUTION 2: Using the traditional and new mourning rituals found to evidence the change in they way people mourn.

At this point, the math calculates that less than 400,000 of American Facebook users will die in 2010 [4]. Facebook hasn’t commented on how many of these accounts are “memorialized” (a special state that removes status updates and disable new friendships — for more details see our forum). Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that most accounts are not “memorialized” — they patiently await the next status update that will never come like faithful Hachikō [5].

Extrapolating globally (1 in 4 Facebook users is American and non-US users tend to be younger and hence have a lower death rate) suggests that 1 to 1.5 million Facebook accounts will outlive their users this year. That’s more than 1 million deaths on Facebook in 2010. 1 million — that’s 1,000 times more people than Mark Zuckerberg has friends [6].

…and 50 million ghosts in 2015

Of course, 2010 isn’t the first year that someone has died on Facebook, and as much as I may hope, it won’t be the last. Facebook’s own blog chronicles the team’s shock and reaction when an early employee died in a bike accident in 2006 [7]. However the recent aging of Facebook means that accounts whose owners have passed away are a relatively new phenomena. In fact, seven times as many people will die on Facebook this year than have ever died on Facebook. Projecting this forward we foresee over 50 million accounts whose owners have passed away in 2015 [8] (see chart 3).

This project has been really difficult to start with. I base this upon the fact that it is really open and that means I have to put my own kind on spin on it, there is no straight forward route as the topic is too large. Therefore as always I struggle with narrowing down on what I want to do.

Since Thursday, I have been going two steps forward and one step back. I’ve been researching in-depth about death and how people mourning. But I have discovered today that any solutions that I wish to explore have really been done before or they are incredibly difficult to visualise. Also when dealing with thing such as mourning, people be have differently therefore how can you make a system if there is set way of behaving!?

So after a morning of struggling I decided to go back again, to the beginning of the project and look at what I was mostly interested in. Initially my intention was to help people cope with mourning online. This was a silly intention as this has been done, and people cope the way they feel comfortable not the way someone tells them to.

I have changed my intention to – Visualising / explaining / investigating the impact that the internet has had on traditional methods of coping with death.
This intention is a lot more flexible because it doesn’t focus on helping people, it is just bringing into focus how the internet has changed tradition (for better or worse).

One thing that lead me towards this intention is the fact of how many websites there already are online that focus on remembering people who have died. Either separate memorial pages, twitter hash tags of RIP, or Facebook memorial profiles. There is a vast amount of these online. This way of mourning has only been possible because of the internet, where else in physical life could you write messages, review photos, and have a constant connection to the deceased?

I also find this theme of memorial interesting because of how people seem so keen not to forget, as one of the quotes from the previous post said – We hang on to the dead however we can”. Because of this human trait, it must be why the internet and social networks seem so popular when remembering the dead.

This project, especially within the brief was more so about how much we contribute online as the living, but I think it is much more interesting to see how much we contribute online about the people who are no longer with us. It seems that what people add after we have gone which continues our legacy and not what we leave behind.

Summary:
NEW INTENTION: To explore how the internet allows a new way of mourning and how this outlet has prolonged our online presence/legacy after death.

SOLUTION 1: Using the mass amount of memorial content to explain the internets use of mourning.

SOLUTION 2: … unsure…

 

In Memoriam 

We hang on to the dead however we can.

The number of Facebook groups called “In Memoriam” is around 1,800. “R.I.P.”: 82,000. The same search terms applied to Twitter yield an almost infinite array of results. You can spend days on Facebook alone sifting through respectful electronic memory boxes of the deceased – photos, videos, dream journals, discussions. Every stage of grief is represented, from the long and lonely lament over the peaceably gone to the angry hunt for the perpetrators of murder in the case of violence.

Facebook is mostly words, pictures, and video. In the avatar-driven Second Life, you can actually visit virtual places like the Second Afterlife Cemetery and find grave markers in memory of persons who, while digitally memorialized, were very real in their day. You know there’s nothing (or, better, no body) underneath the virtual grave marker because “there’s no there there,” but you feel somehow that you’re treading holy ground – even if, like me, you do some of your best work in real graveyards.

The line between the simulated and the actual/physical has never been fuzzier. It’s no longer a line, in fact, so much as a hazy area of consistent negotiation. So much care is required.

Virtual Mourning for the Digital Epitaph

In fact, as a byproduct of broadcasting our lives on social networking sites, it shouldn’t be considered a new trend to see many people turning to digital sites for coping with grief and expressing our mourning. For the last decade, social media sites have quickly turned into virtual memorial sites for people after they die, and with Facebook boosting more than 750 million members to date, anywhere from 1.8 to 3 million Facebook users are estimated to die in 2011 according to digital legacy sites like 1000memories.com and Entrustet.com, turning their profiles into digital epitaphs.

“It would be inappropriate to show up at someone’s door, but the internet provides an alternative way to reach out to people without being in their face,” says Anabel Quan-Haase, Associate Professor of information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario. “When you see a person’s profile still on Facebook it gives them immortality. For a moment in time, their online persona is exactly the way they left it.”

Redefining The Grieving Process In The Digital Age

In The New York Times, he writes: Grieving has been largely guided by religious communities. Today, with families dispersed and the pace of life feeling quickened, these elaborate, carefully staged mourning rituals are less and less common. Old customs no longer apply, yet new ones have yet to materialize…

NEARY: But, you know, what’s also very interesting about what you wrote is the way in which, you know, social media, you know, digital culture is changing our mourning rituals. For instance, you write about getting a mass email announcing a death, and that you didn’t really know how to respond to that.

FEILER: Well, what do you do? So you get these mass emails. And one thing – as you know, I was – I’m a cancer survivor myself, and I went through these struggles when I was sick, and I’m particularly sensitive to them. And what happens is you become overwhelmed. So, you know, email, Facebook – these types of things are a great way of notifying large numbers of people. My father finally passed, for an example, after a long illness.

But you tend to get these things, and there are these mass emails, and what do you do? Is it OK to send an email response? Do you send it privately? Are you supposed to then get out a note card and write a note card response? And so I sought out some people who were in this space, and I was a little surprised what I heard, but people said to me consistently. If the griever feels comfortable sending an email, you should feel comfortable sending – or it’s OK to feel comfortable to send an email in response. Just don’t hit reply all because you don’t want to be in this situation of sending it suddenly to 250 people.

 

Yesterday was the briefing of Rest in Pixels. We all spoke out our ideas so far and had a general discussion about each.

I have done some more thinking about my project and what I want to say. Previously I wanted to investigate the change that occurred in online social networks after a persons death. But the aim of my project has changed more towards, how people cope with death online.

Personal I would not want to go onto Facebook and let everyone see my feelings, as I am aware that whatever you write on the internet will be judged therefore I don’t ever really write serious thoughts or feelings. Especially if I was upset with someones death, the last thing I need is to worry about what people think of what I have said.

However I do feel that it is beneficial for people to post online, especially within Facebook/ FB Memorial pages, as there is some kind of connection to the deceased that is not there in reality. For example if I am a persons Facebook friend and they pass away, I am also connected to them until I delete them as a friend or until something happens to their profile.

Some people write on walls/status’/etc to the deceased as they feel that the message is actually going to that person, and that somehow where ever they are, they might be able to see it. I for one do not believe in god or a proper after life, but it is comforting to believe that if I send this person a message they some how could read it, so that they are up to date etc.

When people post online I don’t think they do it so that everyone else can see, but it is purely because of that literal “friend” connection, and that if other people see it, it is because that it just the online space available and it being public is a sub feature.

So I feel like my projects intention is now to create a flexible system where people can mourn in a personal way which caters for their needs.

Now I need to come up with two solutions for this… with 5 visual examples for each!