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Living with the dead: emergent post-mortem digital curation and creation practices

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Abstract

This chapter explores the emergent digital dimension of contemporary Western mourning, by utilising a historical framework and a postmodern, post-disciplinary and practice theory lens, in order to critically discuss how the ruptures of loss and the presence of the dead are radically manifesting in the digital age. We begin with a contextual overview of the historical landscape of mourning, its perceived decline and the twentieth century gaze toward private grief, before proceeding to introduce the paradigm of continuing bonds and the social presence of the dead.

From this contextualisation, the chapter then introduces twenty-first century digital mourning through a discussion of the emergent practices which curate and create the spectral presence of the dead online. We argue that mourning has not collapsed, but is radically manifest in ways currently unaccounted for and invisible within the dominant filter of memorialisation. Finally, we introduce a range of potential implications and challenges that will be faced by HCI researchers and designers of systems supporting the ‘End of Life’, by highlighting the emerging socio-cultural complexity in need of consideration when designing technologies for bereavement support.