Digital Legacy Association urges hospices to support patients in managing their digital estate

The Future of Our Digital Selves

By Jess Myra


This paper presents insights on designing interactions for digital immortality after bodily dying, and will deal with factors of interactions with the digital archive for those who stay alive.

Current instruments for digital memento and digital archive administration will not be supposed to perform for submit-life communications and don’t sufficiently take into account the longevity of content material, digital legacies, and relevancy of content material over time.

Conclusions and insights from graduate thesis analysis are offered right here to tell applicable interactions for digital immortality. It will embrace how cultural legacies of the previous can encourage digital legacies for the long run. Also, correlations will be included from a survey addressing mementos, digital legacies, digital will planning, digital archives, and the dying of family members.


Results offered listed here are primarily based on interviews and a web-based survey. This survey had a complete of one hundred fifteen respondents and integrated qualitative and quantitative questions. Input strategies had been through radial button choice, a number of checkbox choice, and free textual content entry. Questions coated normal demographics and 6 subsections (conventional mementos, digital mementos, digital will, your legacy, these gone, digital archives) totaling 31 questions with the choice for suggestions on the finish.

Participants had been unfold throughout 22 international locations, with most respondents from North America (60%) and Europe (24%). Gender division was males (sixty one%) and females (39%). The majority of respondents had been working professionals (seventy five%), with lesser respondents as numerous sorts of college students (18%), with nominal respondents both a keep-at-dwelling dad or mum or as “different”.


Dusty picture albums and containers of letters (conventional mementos) are being changed with laborious drives and cloud storage (digital mementos). Instead of fading pictures and ink, we now have the endurance of digital bytes. As we transition to this new kind of digital content material administration, traces of ourselves begin to manifest that will retain life far after we die.

In human historical past, there has at all times been a want to go away a legacy and be remembered. This occurs at varied scales whether or not as a civilization, tradition, household, or particular person—suppose pyramids to gravestones. In trendy instances, our channels of communication have shifted from conventional to digital memento administration.

This compulsion to seize our lives for posthumous remembrance is named thanatography. This paper explores interplay alternatives for a way our digital legacies may be eternal and retain relevance to these dwelling lengthy after our loss of life. This a brand new strategy to human-pc interplay analysis in submit-life digital humanities referred to as thanatosensitivity.

Cultural Legacies

An essential half of analysis for this thesis examined cultural legacies which have survived all through the generations. Studies included: on-website visits, interviews with anthropologists, audio guided excursions, commentary, and reflections leading to matter upsetting questions.

The purpose of this portion of analysis was to find how present behaviors and historic societies can encourage the legacy of digital content material for the next generations of technocrats. The following cultural legacies had been examined:

Native American Totem Poles, Vodou Spiritual Communications, and Icelandic Sagas.

Traditional Mementos

Traditional mementos are sometimes simply significant to the person who owns them and so they doubtless don’t even keep in mind the final time they dealt with them. Comparatively, many individuals need to be remembered lengthy after their dying so the paradigm of coveting private objects as a technique to retain a legacy to go on to others is just not very efficient. The which means and worth of conventional mementos can simply be misplaced to the following sequence of receivers.

Digital Mementos

We are amassing gigabytes of photographs, movies, and emails and we wrestle to parse significant content material at related instances from the collections. Web companies like Flickr, or software program purposes like iPhoto add some readability with organizational strategies like date stamping or tagging. Facebook’s implementation of the Timeline additionally helps us to reßect on shared moments primarily based on years of our lives. Yet, why is a date, key phrase tag, or yr related after we die? Does this meta knowledge add worth to our when individuals need to entry it later?

The Archive

The digital archive is a set of all digital content material that the particular person owned together with the digital pictures, video, audio, emails, tweets, and textual content messages from that one particular person. However, the traces between  aren’t so distinct. Typically, digital media is shared with others. Our milestone moments and recollections have worth as a result of we expertise them with folks. Consider the shared mementos between a household, or tight community of mates. The digital archive of somebody who has died in that context is considered much less as ‘theirs’ and extra as ‘ours’.



We settle for a broader possession of digital content material as we tag our pals, they usually tag us, and we every share the identical content material independently by way of totally different shops. With so many channels obtainable to entry and share digital content material, and a lot of our time now being devoted within the digital realm, there’s a bigger viewers accessible that’s unparalleled by our conventional mementos. There is larger alternative to replicate our digital selves ahead to be remembered by future generations and extra importantly, to offer worth for them by way of our for an extended interval of time.

Everlasting Presence

As traces of our digital selves persist after we die, there’s alternative leverage digital media so our lives can proceed to be significant for our family members. We can retain relationships with folks we care about and make our life experiences out there for his or her profit. In essence, we will persist digitally to some extent after bodily demise.

Current platforms that exist haven’t been constructed for the performance of put up-life content material administration. Facebook’s Memorial pages are static archives in an energetic public platform that don’t handle the sensitivities of particular relationships. The Timeline group of content material is sensible for our personal self-reflection in life, nevertheless, as a digital archive it doesn’t present direct worth for others.

Remembering the Dead

One of the largest challenges with digital immortality is retaining relevancy of our digital content material over time so our lives might be precious and significant to future generations. In the interval instantly after loss of life, household and pals mourn and undergo the grieving course of. After acceptance of the dying, the particular person is remembered by these surviving by way of recollections and mementos. If the particular person was recognized first hand in life, triggers reminiscent of a spot, date, or scent can recall shared moments. However, what occurs generations after the demise of somebody and people people who knew them in life additionally cross away? How can somebody who has been lifeless for a very long time retain a legacy in digital content material that will have which means to future generations.

Activating Archives

Now we have now the chance to leverage qualities of digital content material to help differing types of relationships into the long run. With the copious quantities of knowledge being collected and shared about our private lives, there’s alternative to remain linked in new methods after dying. Algorithms primarily based on persona and character traits can auto-put up on somebody’s behalf—as seen within the new on-line service LivesOn that will tweet for you past the grave. Similarly, providers like Dead Social and IfIDie permit customers to ship preplanned messages in after demise.

Intersections of Life

However, not represented within the present suite of publish-life digital companies are the advantages of shared life experiences and commonalities throughout  after dying. Namely, the second of overlap between somebody’s life and a digital second from somebody who’s lifeless might be beneficial in numerous contexts.

These corresponding life experiences will be accessible from the archive of people who have died to supply a brand new foundation for empathy all through life phases of the dwelling that the deceased can contribute to. This offers a chance to find new views on folks you thought you already knew, or new commonalities with a relative you by no means knew in life. Commonalities and shared experiences are timeless. They retain worth in new methods to totally different individuals, for various causes, at totally different moments.

Because now we have varied levels of relationships with individuals, we frequently wish to share and bear in mind folks in numerous methods primarily based on how we knew them. Also, the sort and quantity of info we will wish to share will depend upon how shut we’re to them. Thus, utilizing public platforms to serve the aim of many levels of relationships will not be applicable. It doesn’t fulfill the specificity of private relationships, and imposes moments within the public sphere that will possible not be anticipated and doubtlessly not desired as nicely.


With new retailers for connecting to a bigger viewers, and with traces of ourselves which can be left behind in digital media, it’s extra essential than ever to think about features of possession, longevity, and relevancy over time of our legacy after dying. Different from previous traditions, the long run of digital content material administration permits us to preplan and increase our digital archive to stay linked with family members and people in our social community lengthy after we’re bodily gone.

Through my analysis, I consider present present platforms don’t leverage digital media adequately for submit-life legacy in an lively contextual manner, nor does it assist the wants of these near us as a platform for communication and reminiscence in our bodily absence. I consider the traces between particular person  are blurred and there may be alternative for our life to retain relevance far after we die by leveraging the worth of commonalities throughout our digital archives. Through shared recollections and availability of empathetic experiences, our lives can have that means over time through the wealthy digital content material that aggregates all through our lives.

There is a brand new alternative introduced to us that didn’t exist earlier than with conventional mementos. Fortunately, we’re in management and will get to determine what it means to command our put up-life digital selves—ought to we select to.


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