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The memory remains: visible presences within the network

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2014
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)127-140
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Bereavement practices with the material legacies of the dead are known to be deeply complex, multifaceted and tap into a rich cultural imaginary around the desire to honour, remember and aid the dead to persist on. Since the mid 1990's, scholarships have begun to acknowledge the changing nature of people's material legacies after death. Through increasing engagement with different technologies, the deceased are now leaving extensive digital legacies within the internet.

Empirical research has revealed how memorials and social networking profiles offer the bereaved a positive focus for loss and community building. Furthermore, empirical work has investigated how memorial sites and Facebook can invoke the social presence of the dead. However, there are a range of remains and social presences online that have surfaced during my doctoral inquiry that are missing from this developing discourse, such as the dead seeming to like things on Facebook, advertise products, become trending topics, remind us of our birthday commitments, appear in search listings and congratulate us on our new jobs.

Within this review I provide an overview of the current literature around the themes of digital legacy and the digital afterlife that has emerged out of the developing intersection of death and technology studies. By outlining the current debates, I begin to challenge the current thinking by introducing an interdisciplinary approach from New Media studies, in order to reconsider online remains and how evoked social presences in online environments may actually complicate grief instead of aiding, as many research results suggest. This review concludes by reflecting on how sometimes the dead can live on, but potentially as unwelcomed and unwanted presences within the sensitive context of loss and bereavement.