Researching Death Online

Authored by: Luke van Ryn , Tamara Kohn , Bjorn Nansen , Michael Arnold , Martin Gibbs

The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940918
eBook ISBN: 9781315673974
Adobe ISBN: 9781317377788


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Death now knocks in a digital age. When the time is nigh, whether from natural causes at a ripe age, or from accidents or illness when young, the word goes out through a range of technologies and then various communities gather offline and online. Digital ethnography in this “death” sphere has been growing in form and possibility over the past two decades as various platforms are designed and become occupied with the desires of the living and dying. Online funerals and commemorative activities are now often arranged alongside the perhaps more somber rites of burial or cremation (Boellstorff 2008, 128). Services such as LivesOn promise that we shall be able to “tweet” beyond the grave; members of online communities encounter each other on commemorative online sites where they grieve for a shared friend but never meet each other “in person”; and it is predicted that soon there will be more Facebook profiles of the dead than of the living.

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