Memorializing Your Digital Afterlife

Memorializing Your Digital Afterlife

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The recently launched LIFELOGGING investigates the ways in which we turn our lives into data via trackers and tallies, and asks, with regard to life-after-death of data itself, “where do we go from here?” In addition to the multimedia exhibit, the ongoing project at Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery Dublin hosts cross-disciplinary research to explore how we digitally quantify beauty, the body, and “everything from heartbeats to heartbreak.”

Artist and art director Karl Toomey contributed several pieces to the gallery show, including a tombstone with the data-fiable accomplishments of fictitious character @kurtmarkoneill carved into it.

He told PSFK that, of the various items he “cobbled together” for the show, he particularly gets “quite a thrill” from seeing and touching the grave marker (which he had professionally engraved for authenticity’s sake).

The work has been popular among gallery-goers and on social media, possibly due to its striking and “lovely interplay between the absolute permanence of engraved stone and the temporary nature of the social data engraved on it.” The conflict created by the piece, Koomer noted, is due to the fact that, while the headstone “is meant to be eternal, the data is ever changing.”

While it may be unlikely that most super-connected users will opt for their online records to be preserved in granite, Toomey pointed out that the question of how a person’s data should be stored – or even used – after death is an important one.

“On one hand it feels weird to just delete someone’s data once they’ve died, kind of like burning pictures of them,” he said. “But on the other hand, what practical and emotional use is it to preserve it?”

For his own digital legacy, Koomer said he’d “like there to be some sort of use of [his] data” after he’s gone, and that handing it over to medical institutions (similar to – but possibly less graphic than – leaving one’s body to ‘science’) would be fine with him “if it meant progress could be made.” He continued,
Likewise on an emotional level I’d like my family to be able to put my data to use somehow. Maybe deleting it could be the ultimate closure for them. Or maybe replaying the data could be comforting in the way old photos are.

Koomer also noted that our data has plenty of worth while we’re upright and breathing, too. While unseen companies already trade massive amounts of our collected data for high profits (info ranging from which burrito we’ve ordered to our path for finding a Miley Cyrus image online), individuals are also able to actively benefit from leveraging their day-to-day records; Koomer pointed to dental insurance rates being linked to hygiene data from connected toothbrushes, and the same trend with auto insurance costs and monitored driving.

If our personal data has real-life value now, it seems, then future estate plans and wills may be able to transfer our value-assessed data hoards to our descendants along with the usual stocks and deeds.

In the meantime, plenty of options exist for those persons who want to plan out their digital afterlives. Various services exist for sending out pre-written emails and notifications to loved ones (or enemies) after a person’s digitally confirmed demise, while other platforms offer to keep up your social media presence from the great beyond by adding ‘likes’ and updates that you likely would’ve chosen. Managing another person’s digital legacy can be difficult, too, so Facebook and other sites have started establishing protocols for this eventuality.

The technical and ethical questions related to a person’s digital legacy are just starting to be asked; however, by the time the Twitter generation starts passing on, the scope of management options for digi-death may match that of the itself.

Memorializing Your Digital Afterlife
An exhibit asks and explores answers to the question - how much of us lives on online when we die?

The recently launched LIFELOGGING investigates the ways in which we turn our lives into data via trackers and tallies, and asks, with regard to life-after-death of data itself, “where do we go from here?” In addition to the multimedia exhibit, the ongoing project at Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery Dublin hosts cross-disciplinary research to explore how we digitally quantify beauty, the body, and “everything from heartbeats to heartbreak.”

Artist and art director Karl Toomey contributed several pieces to the gallery show, including a tombstone with the data-fiable accomplishments of fictitious character @kurtmarkoneill carved into it.

He told PSFK that, of the various items he “cobbled together” for the show, he particularly gets “quite a thrill” from seeing and touching the grave marker (which he had professionally engraved for authenticity’s sake).

life6.jpg

The work has been popular among gallery-goers and on social media, possibly due to its striking and “lovely interplay between the absolute permanence of engraved stone and the temporary nature of the social data engraved on it.” The conflict created by the piece, Koomer noted, is due to the fact that, while the headstone “is meant to be eternal, the data is ever changing.”

While it may be unlikely that most super-connected users will opt for their online records to be preserved in granite, Toomey pointed out that the question of how a person’s data should be stored – or even used – after death is an important one.

“On one hand it feels weird to just delete someone’s data once they’ve died, kind of like burning pictures of them,” he said. “But on the other hand, what practical and emotional use is it to preserve it?”

life2.jpg
For his own digital legacy, Koomer said he’d “like there to be some sort of use of [his] data” after he’s gone, and that handing it over to medical institutions (similar to – but possibly less graphic than – leaving one’s body to ‘science’) would be fine with him “if it meant progress could be made.” He continued,

Likewise on an emotional level I’d like my family to be able to put my data to use somehow. Maybe deleting it could be the ultimate closure for them. Or maybe replaying the data could be comforting in the way old photos are.

Koomer also noted that our data has plenty of worth while we’re upright and breathing, too. While unseen companies already trade massive amounts of our collected data for high profits (info ranging from which burrito we’ve ordered to our path for finding a Miley Cyrus image online), individuals are also able to actively benefit from leveraging their day-to-day records; Koomer pointed to dental insurance rates being linked to hygiene data from connected toothbrushes, and the same trend with auto insurance costs and monitored driving.

If our personal data has real-life value now, it seems, then future estate plans and wills may be able to transfer our value-assessed data hoards to our descendants along with the usual stocks and deeds.

life4.jpg

In the meantime, plenty of options exist for those persons who want to plan out their digital afterlives. Various services exist for sending out pre-written emails and notifications to loved ones (or enemies) after a person’s digitally confirmed demise, while other platforms offer to keep up your social media presence from the great beyond by adding ‘likes’ and updates that you likely would’ve chosen. Managing another person’s digital legacy can be difficult, too, so Facebook and other sites have started establishing protocols for this eventuality.

The technical and ethical questions related to a person’s digital legacy are just starting to be asked; however, by the time the Twitter generation starts passing on, the scope of management options for digi-death may match that of the afterlife itself.

Karl Toomey


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Eleanore

Eleanore

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