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.

What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is only related to objects, and not to individuals, or to life.

~ Michel Foucault, Philosopher, social theorist, and historian

Lately, I’ve been exploring language and its role in our perception and understanding of art. I thought I would dig through some Wittgenstein text to whet my appetite for some much-needed philosophical art writing I’m working on. Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve been noshing on…

We are handicapped in ordinary language by having to describe, say, a tactile sensation by means of terms for physical objects such as the word “eye”, “finger”, etc. when what we want to say does not entail the existence of an eye or finger, etc..We have to use a roundabout description of our sensations. This of course does not mean that ordinary language is insufficient for our special purposes, but that it is slightly cumbrous and sometimes misleading. The reason for this peculiarity of our language is of course the regular coincidence of certain sense experiences.

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian Philosopher

In art the object is the work produced by art, as much containing elements of empirical reality as displacing, dissolving, and reconstructing them according to the work’s own law. Only through such transformation, and not through an ever falsifying photography, does art give empirical reality its due, the epiphany of its shrouded essence and the merited shudder in the face of it as in the face of a monstrosity. The primacy of the object is affirmed aesthetically only in the character of art as the unconscious writing of history, as anamnesis of the vanquished, of the repressed, and perhaps of what is possible. The primacy of the object, as the potential freedom from domination of what is, manifests itself in art as its freedom from objects. If art must grasp its content [Gehalt] in its other, this other is not to be imputed to it but falls to it solely in its own immanent nexus. Art negates the negativity in the primacy of the object, negates what is heteronmous and unreconciled in it, which art allows to emerge even through the semblance of the reconciliation of its works.

~Theodor Adorno, Sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist 

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Reading a wide array of texts has been an integral part of my writing practice. I’ve written numerous posts on this topic so I won’t bother getting into it since I have a sneaky suspicion you know what I would say (e.g., developing a voice, dedication, staying motivated, yada yada yada la la la, etc.). So, I’ll try to dissect the text above…

It is the whole traditional world of causality that is in question: the perspectival, determinist mode, the “active”, critical mode, the analytic mode – the distinction between cause and effect, between active and passive, between subject and object, between the end and the means. It is in this sense that one can say: TV is watching us, TV alienates us, TV manipulates us, TV informs us…In all this, one remains dependent on the analytical conception of the media, on an external active and effective agent, on “perspectival” information with the horizon of the real and of meaning as the vanishing point.

~ Jean Baudrillard (French Philosopher), excerpt from his book, Simulacra and Simulation