Death in the digital age

Historians of medicine and medical museum curators have invested a lot of interest in changing historical conceptions of death and the material remains that signify death and afterlife.

But few have turned their attention to death on the internet and other digital media. The announced one-day seminar on ‘Afterlife & Death in a Digital Age’ to be held at the National University of Singapore on 17 April promises to provide some interesting input to how museums could incorporate these new conceptions of death:

How is the dash between life and death, being and oblivion reflected in the age of digital media? How can we approach the subtleties of different cultural practices and beliefs through design? What is the technological response to the ephemerality of our digital and physical existence? What are the issues around ordinary technologies transforming into memorials, evoking powerful memories, nostalgia etc? What is the function of different projects offering technological response to death and afterlife? Are we simply witnessing technological sentimentality and kitsch and designing new forms of ‘earthly and ridiculous immortality’ as Milan Kundera would inspire us to think? What are different design solutions responding to? For example, are they trying to respond to the immense indifference of nature and the universe to human life and death? How can we respond to the ever-increasing mass of digital refuse or ‘dead’ data and what are the implications of and insights provided by reflecting on the inevitable end of ‘civilisation’? What are the legal and ethical implications of ‘freedom of choice’ being supported through technology, digital desecration and the hybridisation of (the remains of) the dead with the living?

Keywords include:

  • possible immortality and afterlife through digital media
  • cultural issues with dying, death, afterlife and technology
  • new forms of grieving and commemorating via emerging technologies
  • the motivation, role and function of technological responses to mortality
  • digital archiving and the preservation of self and society
  • the ethics of supporting death and desecration through technology
  • the hybridisation of once living, sentient beings with other biological and robotic entities.

Excellent questions and topics. Hope one of the organizers would like to come over to Copenhagen one day and create an exhibition around these themes with us.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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