Culture Criticism Observations Social Networking

Digital Possessions: What happens when you die? | Part I

I don’t like being morbid but I find the topic of a digital afterlife extremely fascinating. Being present and engaged in life is a great way to live; however, it’s difficult to not think about the things which seem beyond our control. It’s already difficult to keep my life in order and I see myself as a pretty organized person. Why do I need to think about what happens to my digital possessions? Does it matter? Will it matter? After some consideration, I realized I’ve got  a bit of stuff in the digital universe – a blog, art writing, pictures, videos, and important documentation (i.e., financial statements, tax information, etc.). I’m leaving a legacy but is there value? Who determines the value after I’m gone? Does this mean I have to leave my Mom, partner, and best friend a list of all my accounts, usernames, and passwords in a safe deposit box [scratches head, I’ll just e-mail them]?

Seriously though.

Having been through the passing of my father and grandmother in the past few years, this was not an issue. Believe it or not, neither one of them used the internet (ever). Yes. It’s true. Those people still exist (i.e., my maternal grandfather who is fortunately still with us never used the net nor does he have any interest in doing so). Yet, when a friend passed away some time ago, this thought of memorializing and digital self started to fascinate me. As I saw his Facebook profile fill up with well wishes in the afterlife (whether on one exists or not is a separate discussion), I started to wonder about the way we depict ourselves online. Friend and fellow blogger, Shirley Rivera, posted an article on her wall about the digital afterlife, that this piqued my interest (again). People always mention being careful what share online because this is a part of what you leave behind. For instance, when Heavy D passed away, the news anchor finished off by saying, “Heavy D’s last Tweet: Be Inspired“. Granted, if some celebrity’s last tweet was, “I’m lovin’ these bagels right now” or “Oooo, The Motto is my jam, turn that sh*t up”, I’m pretty sure they would spare the deceased the embarrassment but it is the internet, people will go looking for your legacy! Your digital life speaks volumes of who you might be. Crazy, eh?

I decided to break this discussion up into a few parts, this serves as the introduction. Check out Your Digital Afterlife here and tell me what you think. I’m interested on what your thoughts are. In addition, with each part on this topic will be supplemented with an artist whose work touches upon the idea of a digital/virtual self, death, and loss.

For Part I, I wanted to [re]introduce you to Kenneth Lo. I’ve written about his work in a earlier post, which you can view here. You have to see his work in person the next time he has a show. For now, please visit his site and feel free to leave comments and/or questions about his work.