What does a real death mean to the digital face?

By | March 31, 2014

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Time

I'm not sure how many know him, but Dirk is one person who I "know" digitally from the times before Google+. And reading some of the reactions that have been circling the Googlesphere since his passing, I realize: the digital bonds between people – even people I have never met – are, in some cases, deeper than some of the bonds to people whom I have met. But surely, he's not the first person to die, nor will he be the last.

But it does serve as a reminder that death has a number of implications:
 – What happens then to the digital content that a person has produced once they are no longer there to maintain it?
 – Who can (and should) "bury" the person's digital profiles, if a "burial" is at all appropriate?
 – Should an "heir" be able to inherit a digital profile – especially if profiles become, more or less, their own brands?

The digital world runs in asynchronous time, the real world runs in synchronous time. A person passing away does not change the impact they have left and will leave – because digital content is still there, still waiting to be discovered and consumed, and even a profile could be continued by a ghost writer. Or it may diminish, as relatives or platform operators cut off profiles and presences due to lack of time, knowledge, funds, or any other reason. There's a lot of possibilities on how our synchronous processes could work in an asynchronous web environment.

Reshared post from +Patrick Sharpe

Dirk Talamasca

I just found out that my friend and Google+ cohort +Dirk Talamasca has passed away. Its caught me off guard and I can't think straight right now.

I'll miss you man, Google+ misses you.


8 thoughts on “What does a real death mean to the digital face?

  1. Doug Breitbart

    +Sophie Wrobel This is a profound and completely uncharted territory, with the barest beginnings of formulations and probes regarding legalities and succession and the lot.

    The truth is that the virtual world truly affords an immortality that bears not correlation or similarity to the 3d corporeal world and its way of dealing with passing.

    Dear friends long gone still live for me through their web presences that persist, although for the life of me I do not know how. But it is a gift of the Noosphere, one of those affordances and synchronicities that truly reveal linear time as the ethereal and illusory construct it is.

    Hugely valuable post.

  2. Karen Peck

    Google has the facility for you to choose a person who is in charge of your account if it goes dormant account. Have a click about in the settings – I'm sure you'll find it.

  3. Christine DeGraff

    There are services available to plan for the future (or removal) of your digital presence and strangely enough I had a discussion about it with Dirk before he became ill. Sadly, I do not think he made any arrangements.

  4. Deborah L Gabriel

    +Sophie Wrobel possibly the use of microblogs such as G+ may change that, hosting and domains are not an issue, particularly if a name stays alive or is accidentally rediscovered as in an archeological ruin.
    I guess time will tell. How long will Google entities last? An unknown.

    I am sorry about the demise of your friend.

  5. Sophie Wrobel

    +Deborah L Gabriel Because practice suggests that digital format is different. Whether it should be different is another question; unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world.

    Books are printed once, and once they are printed and distributed, they remain in circulation.

    Websites are created once, and once the website operator decides not to pay for the domain anymore, or decides that the service is cancelled, they – and their content – vanish. Unless someone archived it sometime, somewhere else in cyberspace. But dissappearance of websites is common practice in research – sites typically vanish a year, or two, or at most three, after the project is completed, because the hosting institution decided they could cut costs by slashing the domain, and project results that were unpublished but only available on the project website vanish… forever.

  6. Deborah L Gabriel

    +Sophie Wrobel. These are thoughts that will probably at some time be appropriated by governmental beauracratic procedures.
    But in the mean time, over the course of human history, death has not diminished the traces of material human history, books, objects of art, wall paintings, tools, crockery, scrolls, monuments, etc. but served to educate, elucidate and mentally challenge future generations. Why should the digital format be any different?

  7. Brian Fields

    Our digital presence persists as long as those who remember us keep tending it. Sharing past posts, memories, encounters. Not much different from 'real life' is it?
    As long as it's preserved by the archivists (Google, FB, Twitter) it can even lay dormant, waiting to be discovered by someone far into the future and brought back into the consciousness.


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