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The Digital Departed: How We Face Death, Commemorate Life, and Chase Virtual Immortality

The Digital Departed: How We Face Death, Commemorate Life, and Chase Virtual Immortality

Current price: $30.00
Publication Date: September 12th, 2023
New York University Press
The MIT Press Bookstore
1 on hand, as of Feb 28 6:04pm
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A fascinating exploration of the social meaning of digital death

From blogs written by terminally ill authors to online notes left by those considering suicide, technology has become a medium for the dead and the dying to cope with the anxiety of death. Services like artificial intelligence chatbots, mind-uploading, and postmortem blog posts offer individuals the ability to cultivate their legacies in a bid for digital immortality. The Digital Departed explores the posthumous internet world from the perspective of both the living and the dead.

Timothy Recuber traces how communication beyond death evolved over time. Historically, the methods of mourning have been characterized by unequal access to power and privilege. However, the internet offers more agency to the dead, allowing users accessibility and creativity in curating how they want to be remembered.

Based on hundreds of blog posts, suicide notes, Twitter hashtags, and videos, Recuber examines the ways we die online, and the digital texts we leave behind. Combining these data with interviews, surveys, analysis of news coverage, and a historical overview of the relationship between death and communication technology going back to pre-history, The Digital Departed explains what it means to live and die on the internet today. In this thought-provoking and uniquely troubling work, Recuber shows that although we might pass away, our digital souls live on, online, in a kind of purgatory of their own.

About the Author

Timothy Recuber is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Smith College. He is the author of Consuming Catastrophe: Mass Culture in America's Decade of Disaster, winner of the Outstanding Recent Contribution Award from the American Sociological Association's Sociology of Emotions section.