The Second International Death Online Research Symposium – Summary of the first day!

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I had the privilege of attending The Second International Death Online Research Symposium, held at the Kingston University, London, UK on August 17th – 18th, 2015. It was good to meet others, who like us, are researching death in the digital age.

Death Online Research is a network of international researchers interested in the study of how dying, death and the afterlife is mediated and expressed online. The network statement reminds me of the reasons why Planned Departure was created

“When an increasingly large part of life, from the most intimate to the most officious is manifest online, it should be of no surprise that death is there as well. We are able to relate to death online in different ways, e.g. before and after an actual physical death, or in more metaphorical ways within online forums, gaming environments and so on. Alongside the social media conversations, we have sites for mourning and remembrance as well as for legal advice, casket sale and funeral services. As the median age of Internet population continues to go up, matters connected to the physical death will have increasing importance…’

This event had many different aspects related to digital death. However, there was one common theme in most of the findings from research, which was explained by Dorthe in her opening keynote – Many death related practices are actually the online part of a larger picture counting both on and offline practices and being related to socio-cultural practices in all kinds of settings and contexts.

After Dorthe’s keynote, next section of the conference was on (Re)mediating death and bereavement .

This panel session was started by Katrin Doeveling from the University of Leipzig  and she discussed how online bereavement differs depending on the loss. She also highlighted the need for platforms like this and support provided by these platforms.

IMG_4458Online bereavement platforms provide opportunities for emotional communication within a group of like-minded, yet anonymous grievers.

In the next session, Anna Haverinen from the university of Turku discussed identities and how identity of the deceased and the bereaved is discovered in the process of creating memorial website. It was very interesting to understand that memorials are like caricatures highlighting only one or a few aspects of the individuals. It solidifies our belief that except deceased, no one else really knows how deceased would have liked to be remembered.

IMG_4471I really liked the next session from Dick Kasperowski and Kjetil Sandvik about the bereaved parents and the need to de-tabooisation of talking about death and specifically death of a children.

This talk was followed by the talk of Jo Bell on the experience of bereaved in the aftermath of  a suicide. She found that platforms like Facebook provided an excellent platform to support vulnerable people and to increase awareness and raise more funds for the suicide prevention.

IMG_4472Next few sessions were on the use of technology in this space. It was interesting to see the use of augmented reality apps for gravestone, new digital memorial platforms in Denmark and competitors of Planned Departure, all the way from Israil.

We believe that all these platforms will eventually make it easier for people to talk about death in the digital age!

Final session of this action packed day was from Vared (Rose) Shavit, who is an independent researcher on the topic of digital death. Rose highlighted the problem clearly with the results of er survey which were presented in a paper titled – “Online Legacies : Online Service Providers and the Public – a Clear Gap” 

IMG_4512This session was excellent and gave us opportunity to discuss the solutions we currently have in the market to address this problem and ways in which these solutions could be enhanced. It was good to see that the product road map we have in place is in line with the enhancements people are looking for! However, everybody agreed that more than anything else, we need to increase awareness about the complexities of dying in the digital age!

Second day of this conference was equally amazing and gave a lot more insight about digital death! Stay tuned for the next post and please share this summary with people who couldn’t attend this conference!

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