Academic Articles and Papers

Academic Articles and Papers

  • In 2013, an article titled: “Facebook after death: an evolving policy in a social network” by Damien McCallig was published.
  • In 2013, an article titled: “Coping Online with Loss: Implications for Offline Clinical Contexts” by Joanna Pawelczyk was published. Thank you Dr. Carmel Vaisman for sending me the link.
  • In May 2013, Maria Perrone’s article: “What Happens When we Die: Estate Planning of Digital Assets” was published.
  • In May 2013 an article by Jed R. Brubaker, Gillian R. Hayes, and Paul Dourish was published, titled: “Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Site for the Expansion of Death and Mourning“.
  • paper titled “Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Your Data When You Die?” was published in May 2013, by Stephen S. Wu.
  • In May 2013 a paper titled “Digital Estate Planning: Is Google Your Next Estate Planner?” was published, by Jamie Patrick Hopkins.
  • In April 2013, the paper “Afterlife in the Cloud: Managing a Digital Estate“, also by Jamie Patrick Hopkins, was published.
  • In February 2013 a paper titled “What happens to my Facebook profile when I die?” : Legal Issues Around Transmission of Digital Assets on Death” was published by Lilian Edwards and Edina Harbinja. Thank you Paul Golding for sending me the link.
  • Since September 2012, the article “There Isn’t Wifi in Heaven!” – Negotiating Visibility on Facebook Memorial Pages by Alice Marwick and Nicole B. Ellison is available online for free download. Thank you Dr. Carmel Vaisman for sending me this link.
  • In 2012, an article titled “Grief-Stricken in a Crowd: The Language of Bereavement and Distress in Social Media” was published, by Jed R. Brubaker, Funda Kivran-Swaine, Lee Taber and Gillian R. Hayes.
  • In 2011, the article “”We will never forget you [online]”: An Empirical Investigation of Post-mortem MySpace Comments” was published, by Jed R. Brubaker and Gillian R. Hayes.
  • In 2011, the article “Security and privacy considerations in digital death” was published by Michael E. Locasto, Michael Massimi and Peter J. DePasquale.
  • In 2010, Jed R. Brubaker and Janet Vertesi’s paper “Death and the Social Network “was published .
  • In 2008, the current term “Digital Legacy” was then referred to as “Digital Heirlooms” and an article titled: “On the Design of Technology Heirlooms” was published by David Kirk and Richard Banks.
If you come across any other papers or articles, please be so kind as to send me the link, so I could add them to the list (with credit to you, of course). Email:, Facebook page: Digital Dust.
Digital death is still a problem. A widow’s battle to access her husband’s Apple account

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

As I have previously discussed, even people who believe they have a comprehensive estate plan may have overlooked what happens to their digital assets when they die. The idea is to address digital assets in your existing estate plan. Attorney coach, James Lamm, is teaching attorneys how to integrate specifics of digital estate planning.

Many people possess digital assets that may be of great value to them. However, the value of web domains, photos, videos, email, and social-media accounts may be lost if the owner does not take proper legal steps ahead of time. Digital estate planning is more complicated than traditional estate planning because the owner of assets is tasked with making sure to leave access to the heir. However, these sites may be password protected, encrypted, and governed by privacy laws. Lamm suggests some first steps that would help in the digital estate -planning process.

  1. Go through a test run and ask yourself if you were incapacitated today would your loved ones be able to gain access to your digital assets? Who would you want to have access?
  2. Keep a record of all of the things in your digital inventory with the user name and passwords.
  3. Keep a back up of your digital asset information.
  4. Reduce your plan to writing.
THR 245: You’re Building Your Digital Legacy. Make it Count.

THR 245: You’re Building Your Digital Legacy. Make it Count.

Either there’s a lot of bad content out there on the internet, or the good stuff is just exceptionally hard to find. Think about all of the stories you’ve read this month… the fluff pieces that pop up on Twitter or are shared on your Facebook feed:

– Could THESE photos be of the new iPhone 5 case?
– It’s a boy! The royal family celebrates.
– Hey, have you heard about this new sharing economy? People are actually renting out their apartments, their services, even their cars! (Yes, we heard about this 2 years ago)
– You won’t believe the FAIL this news reporter did on the air.
– Yet another story about “The 5 types of people on Facebook.”

That’s why I try to work incredibly hard to rise above that and deliver something of value. It isn’t easy.

One guy who does this on a regular basis is Gary Vaynerchuk. He had a great video recently that humorously hammered home the importance in mobile. (While my salary negotiation site is being mobile optimized as we speak, the code for TheHopkinsonReport is a bit more complex).

But here’s another video the really struck a chord with me. It’s titled:
We are All the Patriarchs of Our Digital Families

Check it out:

In it, he talks about creating a digital legacy. Realizing that we are the pioneers right now and are laying the groundwork for what all future generations will see. Even the family that took the most photos back in the day has nothing compared to what we do now, and we’re not just documenting silly one-handed photos, but also comments, criticism, and predictions of the future.

How will your family be viewed?
This answer will differ depending on your age, but lets use me as an example. Another year has gone by and the shocking news is that my 44th birthday is rapidly approaching in August.

While I am immersed in media far more than the average person, I have friends my age that have missed the boat entirely, choosing to skip out on Facebook or just now learning about Twitter. But even I probably can’t compete with anyone under 25.

Looking at stats via Business Insider, US Smartphone owners age 18-24 send and receive nearly 4,000 texts per month. My old man text bracket? Around 1,500. Those over 55 don’t even break 500. Meanwhile, my 2-year-old nephew already knows the ins and outs of the iPad.


I’m old enough that on my mom’s side, I had grandparents born in the 1800s! My grandfather was born in 1896, while my grandmother was born in the extremely cool year of 1900. How easy would it be to figure out how old you are for your entire life?!

– Can’t wait to turn 21 in … 1921!
– Well, I celebrated my 42nd birthday… that was back in… 1942.
– Ah, the space launch in 1969… I would have been about… 69 back then.

On my dad’s side, my grandparents were born a bit later. We celebrated my grandfather’s 75th birthday in the early 80’s.

Yet, I’ve probably seen about two dozen photos of all of my grandparents combined, and not a second of video. It’s a sad fact that I truly don’t know that much about them.

As Gary eloquently puts it:

“All the dumb sh!t that your grandfather did, is lost in history. Everything you’re doing is being documented.”


My parents grew up in the 50s and 60s, before tying the knot in 1968 and having me a year later. While there are a few black and white photos from their childhood and a skinny picture of my dad as he entered the Army that looks just like me, it’s like we’re trapped in some kind of Back to the Future “Enchantment Under the Sea Dance” story when we hear about how they met.

There are no blog posts talking about the latest trends, no awkward selfies from their honeymoon, and no YouTube clips of the time they went camping and totally got rained on. It would be a struggle to find even a VHS tape of them live on video before 1990.

And then there’s me

The amount of content I’ve personally created in the last 20 years is immense. We can probably ignore the non-digital content, since only the most curious ancestor would bother trying to secure the relics of the ancient past:
– VHS tapes of movies I made in the 90s
– Newspaper articles from my college newspaper that still live in my parents basement
– Boxes of print photos from my childhood, including a few mullet photos from college

But think of all the digital content:
– Hundreds of hours of audio from this podcast
– Thousands of digital photos
– 244 blog posts alone documenting the world from 2008-2013
– More than 4,000 tweets and hundreds of Foursquare check-ins
– Thousands of Facebook posts, comments, and likes
– Hours of digital video
– Pages of Google results
– Dozens of articles authored across multiple sites

The Tough Question

So here’s the tough question: What do you stand for?

Assume you only have one shot. To your son, your daughter, your grandkids. Maybe it will be the nerdy son of your niece that you’ll never meet that gets assigned a project in 2050 to research their great uncle. What will they find?

Will your digital legacy be filled with endless photos of food, taken without context to what restaurant, what city, what friends were present?

Will it be video that gets fast-forwarded through because it looks like all the others?

Or will they find something that really matters?

A deep connection with family or friends.
A trend that emerges over and over again, no matter what the medium.

Wow, he always had a smile on his face.
Wow, he always seems to have time for his friends and family.
Wow, I didn’t know this about them. It looks like he really made a difference.

Your Legacy

Take a second to think about what you want that teenager to say about you when they unearth your digital legacy and present it to the class.

We are All the Patriarchs of Our Digital Families

Oh, there’s one thing I forgot.

It’s sitting here not 3 feet away on my bookshelf. My grandfather, Joseph Hopkinson DID once take the time to leave his mark, authoring a textbook teaching Latin.

Way to go, Papa Joe.

Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”

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USB drive CryptoTestament will protect your digital legacy

Melville, Billy Budd, and Digital: Death

Herman Melville died on September 28, 1891. That sullen fact might strike you as a morbid greeting for a blog posting, the first such posting for Leviathan, the official publication of The Melville Society. Since I am certain that our subscribers are among the living, I know they are very much alive in their pursuits of the new discoveries, readings, and arguments we like to publish in our journal—which, I am happy to say, has just completed its first year of publication under the aegis of Johns Hopkins University Press—and I rather imagine they would expect something less obituarial for a first post. But when the Press asked me to contribute a few words on Melville for its September blog, my thoughts turned to Melville’s final month and how that occasion might have meaning for us, not only regarding Melville’s creative life and reputation but also our own confrontation—as scholars and critics, readers, and seekers—with this curious end-of-it-all phenomenon.

Death is a “passing,” or so the current phrasing tends to have it, the implication being that this passing is an event leading us into an afterlife somewhere else. I am convinced that the life-long agnostic and putative blasphemer Herman Melville had serious doubts about this notion. Ishmael and Ahab, in their separate and distinctive voices, quarrel within themselves over just this “if” of a god and an afterlife. Ahab seems certain that beyond us exists a reasoning (not irrational), malignant force that rules our lives, and he aims his obsessive anger at striking through the pasteboard masks of our unreasoning life to destroy it. Even so, he admits, “Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough.” And it is his knee-jerk dismissal of the possibility of nothingness that separates Ahab from Ishmael, who, in due course, and through many meditative chapters (that readers too often ignore), reinvigorates himself from Ahab’s spell and finds new life in “trying out” his relationship to nothingness, the ultimate “if” manifested by “the whale.”
In his long life, Melville was an Ishmael—a survivor and a poet, and a survivor because he was a poet—with an Ahab of anger inside him to let out and let flourish. Writing to Hawthorne, on the publication of Moby-Dick, Melville tells his friend that he has already moved on to his next book (Pierre): “Lord,” he says, “when shall we be done growing?” And in fact, as he puts it in the next paragraph, he has grown into another person altogether. If Hawthorne were to write him back, he would be writing to someone else, “for the very fingers that now guide this pen are not precisely the same that just took it up and put it on this paper. Lord, when shall we be done changing” (17? November 1851; NN Corres 213)

What makes Melville “grow” and “change” is writing itself. The process triggers new ways of saying something, which in turn trigger new ideas that are, in the discovery of them, a discovery of a succession of new selves. But what makes this famous passage so playfully deep is the change from “growing” to “changing.” Melville cannot, it seems, quote himself, without changing his words.

I will leave it to you to figure out, for now, what meaning there is in Melville’s revision of himself and in the difference between the words grow and change. For me, the clarity of Melville’s message to Hawthorne lies in Melville’s delight in the way writing requires change, and how changing is a form of growth toward a deeper understanding of himself, which is in fact an evolution into another self.

Which brings us back to September 28, 1891, and Melville’s death: not a passing but a cessation of growth. Forty years after writing to Hawthorne, Melville was still writing himself out, even in his final year. And his changes had been monumental. He had grown from novelist to story-writer to lecturer and then, not surprisingly, to poet (the person he had always aspired to be from adolescence). Starting maybe as early as 1886, he had been working on a manuscript that we know as Billy Budd.

The full manuscript still exists—a rarity for its fullness among the surviving Melville documents—and scholars decades ago showed how Billy Budd must have grown. It began as a version of the poem “Billy in the Darbies” that now ends the novella, and the prose grew, through several discernible stages, out of the original short head note prefacing the poem. First Melville wrote more on his handsome sailor Billy, then added Claggart, then added Vere. It is a remarkable story of growing and changing from sea ballad to modern tragedy.

The Melville Electronic Library project is using the digital tool TextLab to transcribe Melville’s revision texts, to sequentialize them, and to tell the story of their evolution in a “revision narrative.”
The Melville Electronic Library project is using the digital tool TextLab to transcribe Melville’s revision texts, to sequentialize them, and to tell the story of their evolution in a “revision narrative.”
The Melville Electronic Library project is using the digital tool TextLab to transcribe Melville’s revision texts, to sequentialize them, and to tell the story of their evolution in a “revision narrative.”

As a scholar, I have been intrigued by this document, thinking that the numerous revisions on each page of Melville’s manuscript reveal the writing process that allowed Melville never to be “done growing or changing.” Though he seems to lament that process in his letter to Hawthorne, he knew that in fact it kept him alive. As it happens, Melville never finalized Billy Budd. The manuscript seems about as complete as it needs to be, but the text is riddled with revisions, and given Melville’s process, there is no telling that, given time, he might have further expanded his novella into a longer novel, or maybe cut it back to a tighter short story. Melville’s Billy Budd manuscript comes to us, then, as a kind of fossil representation of an evolutionary process.

I determined some years ago that I wanted to figure out a way to read Melville’s revision process as it appears in the “fluid text” of Billy Budd, but that was before the digital revolution, and little could be done in the way I imagined. Now technology has advanced so that it is possible to transcribe Melville’s revision texts, to sequentialize them, and to tell the story of their evolution in a “revision narrative.” The digital tool that allows this new kind of fluid text editing, TextLab, was developed by Hofstra University and Performant Software Solutions (Charlottesville, VA) as part of a larger digital archive, called the Melville Electronic Library (MEL), of which I am director.

A team of scholars is now using TextLab to put online the full text of Billy Budd—what Melville added, deleted, and kept up to the moment of his death. At MEL we are using digital technology not simply to emulate what we already know about Melville but also to show unexpected Melvilles hiding out in his manuscript revisions. Many scholars have joined MEL, and we are all growing and changing to keep up with the technology in order to provide evolving ways of reading these evolving Melvilles. I invite anyone with an interest in Melville or revision or digital transformations to join us as well.

With MEL, and I hope in other ways, I am not yet done growing and changing. In point of fact, Leviathan’s October 2013 issue marks a passing for me. After more than twenty years as editor of the Melville Society, and after having created Leviathan fifteen years ago and having had the pleasure of watching it grow and change, I will be retiring.

I am proud of this journal and equally proud to hand over the reins to Samuel Otter as our new Editor-in-Chief starting January 1, 2014. He will be joined by Associate Editor Brian Yothers, Extracts Editor Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, and Book Review Editor Dawn Coleman, all new to our staff, along with Web Editor Robert Sanderg. But I must admit that this “passing” is a little death for me. In particular, I will miss the hours, days, months spent working with colleagues and contributors to get each word of each sentence in an argument just right, to make sure each article works to the mutual satisfaction and edification of writer, editor, and reader, and to get it all out within budget and on time (well, mostly). But I have essays of my own to write, a book or two I hope, and MEL to keep me on my toes. And like Melville, I marvel and in fact am grateful for this gift of writing that all humans can share in, a process of constant revision and re-invention that seems to keep me growing and changing, much to my amazement and relief.

A journal like Leviathan is very much the product of a productive editorial staff, and the journal’s new editor and associates are impressively productive in their various fields. But Leviathan also has an independent life between its blue covers, and a perpetual life of its own, if readers will allow it. When shall we be done growing? I hope never.