Death, Grieving and Memorialization in a Broadband Enabled Society

Death and The Internet

Introduction to the Study

This project examines the role of Internet and other communication technologies technologies in the experience of death, grieving and memorialisation.

Aims and Significance of the Study

Death provides a uniquely important perspective from which to understand social life, and its gravitas renders other events and activities relatively inconsequential. So, if we are interested in the online experience of life we have much to learn from the online experience of death.

People's experiences of death and death related practices are currently subjected to two contradictory trends:

1) As communities tied to a traditional notion of place are eroded so the social structures supporting communion and a whole gamut of felt practices including grieving, mourning and remembrance are disembedded.
2) Yet the rise of networked individualism through broadband technologies and services also supports new connectivities, networks and practices and therefore potential support through networked communities.

This project will examine the contradictions in this landscape by standing at the crucial intersection of broadband and death.

Approach to the Study

Our study is using ethnographically informed methods to understand the practices associated with death, grieving and memorialization as these practices increasingly 'move online'. Four case studies are currently being pursued (details to follow).

Funding

This project is being funded in 2010-2011 with a projecr seeding grant from the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES).

Contact and Chief Investigator

For further information please contact the Chief Invesitgator and Project Leader, Dr Martin Gibbs. Other Chief Investigators in this project are: Connor Graham (Information Systems); Michael Arnold (Philosophy, Anthropology and Social Inquiry); Tamarah Kohn (Philosophy, Anthropology and Social Inquiry).

(03) 8344 1394 or by email martin.gibbs (at) unimelb.edu.au

Dr Martin Gibbs is a member of the Interaction Design Group in the Department of Information Systems at The University of Melbourne. He completed his PhD with the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, The University of Melbourne in 2000. Since 2002 his research has investigated how people use a variety of interactive technologies (video games, community networks, mobile phones, etc.) for convivial and sociable purposes in a variety of situations (family relationships, local neighborhoods, work-based occupational communities, online computer games).