Digital legacy is changing finality of death, says internet expert to Edinburgh International Science Festival

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Dr Krotoski, author of a book about the effects of the internet called Untangling The Web, will tell the audience of an event on April 7 called A Death Online that the internet is changing the experience of death as we used to know it.

In the event she will be joined by Professor Wendy Moncur, Chair of Digital Living at the University of Dundee, digital death researcher Stacey Pitsillides and psychologist Dr Elaine Kasket.

She said: "If you start to prepare your Will, you need to create a digital will: and think: what assets you have are digital?

"My husband and I have what we call the big red book which, on the event of our death, we can go to one another's book and there is literally a list of all the usernames and passwords, all the services that we belong to, all the websites we register, or how on earth would he know all my crazy passwords I have to update every 72 days in order to keep all my data safe? It is really important to make all those preparations."

She said the web is changing how we encounter and deal with death.

"We now have an entire different legacy, a digital legacy," she said.

"The experience of death for the people left behind is different - information spreads more quickly, there are memorial pages where you digitally share your respects for the person, and it's a village in the sense that as soon as that information is shared, it's there, rather than before you had to read the obituary pages.

"But people still have the same core psychological need to reflect, respect and remember and to celebrate."

The writer and academic said that the ability to digitally store one's voice, memories, and video means that "we now have the opportunity to not let that person go, to not let that person pass."

She added: "Similarly, there are organisations can get you to front load data, so at the moment that the system is alerted that you have died, it sends out an email to all of your friends and family and says: 'I know I am dead, if you want to keep talking with me, I have this giant database so you can keep talking with me,

"The social experience of death, in terms of its purpose, are the same, but the social experience has evolved."

The ability to time posts, on various platforms, means death has even changed for the dead, she said.

"What's interesting there is that you, as the deceased, do not have agency, but the artificial intelligence you have created has agency," she said.

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"With these timed tweets you can become the author of your destiny for a little while longer.

"It is seeking to prolong the life, and I am not saying that's a bad thing. It allows you the agency, or just the simulation of agency, after you have gone.

"But it might also be creepy."