Digital Artifacts of the Dead

When you die, what will happen to your blog, Facebook account, and other digital ephemera that you've accumulated throughout your life?

Rob Walker of The New York Times wrote about the cyberafterlife of blogger Mac Tonnies (who wrote Posthuman Blues), and the multitude of businesses that sprung up to take care of your web accounts after your death:

Finding solace in a Twitter feed may sound odd, but the idea that Tonnies’s friends would revisit and preserve such digital artifacts isn’t so different from keeping postcards or other physical ephemera of a deceased friend or loved one. In both instances, the value doesn’t come from the material itself but rather from those who extract meaning from, and give meaning to, all we leave behind: our survivors.

The most remarkable set of connections to emerge from Tonnies’s digital afterlife isn’t among his online friends — it is between those friends and his parents, the previously computer-shunning Dana and Bob Tonnies. Dana, who told me that her husband now teases her about how much time she spends sending and answering e-mail (a good bit of it coming from her son’s online social circle), is presently going through Posthuman Blues, in order, from the beginning. “I still have a year to go,” she says. Reading it has been “amazing,” she continues — funny posts, personal posts, poetic posts, angry posts about the state of the world. I ask her if what she is reading seems like a different, or specifically narrow, version of her son. “Oh, no, it’s him,” she says. “I can hear him when I read it.”

Link - via metafilter


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One of my friends died of cancer last month (at age 26), and her friends are still gathering at her facebook wall and posting things they remember about her and messages for her. It sometimes feels weird that I'm facebook friends with a dead girl, but at the same time, it's a nice way to remember her.
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