The dead may well outnumber the living on Facebook within the next 5 decades. These people could be tagged in a photo, friend requested or wished a ‘happy birthday’. What kind of rules should be set here? Should your account be deactivated? Can someone else claim your username after you die?
So there are platform specific issues around death. But there are also a whole host of services cropping up which Carl calls ‘the digital afterlife industry’. These include information management services, which help families cope with how digital assets (I assume like photographs, messages etc) are handled after death. Then we have posthumous messaging services. The company might send you an email, and if you don’t reply, they assume you’ve died. You can then arrange for other people to get specific messages when you’re dead. Online memorial services commemorate the deceased’s life in many interesting ways. ‘Re-creation services’ look to recreate the person who has died using their digital footprint.
Carl Öhman is completing his doctorate at the Oxford Internet Institute. His research looks at the ethical challenges regarding commercial management of ‘digital human remains’. This is the data left by deceased users on the Internet. He is an expert when it comes to digital death.
Sam Johnston is an ex-technology consultant who is writing a book about freedom of speech. I’m hoping to recruit him to become a regular twaaat.
Interesting articles mentioned in the podcast
Carl’s research can be found here in Nature, and the study he mentioned on the growing number of dead people online can be found here. If you’re after something a bit more academic then take a look at his paper here.
If you liked the idea of bloody others and non-bloody others, please check out: are you in a relationship with a machine?
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