Dearly Departed

Communicating with the Dead in the Digital Age

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 University of Missouri-Kansas City hubermanj@umkc.edu
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Abstract

This article explores how the Internet is reshaping relationships between the living and the dead. Drawing on data from the online memorial site ForeverMissed.com, it examines why online memorials are increasingly being used to commemorate the deceased instead of the more traditional genre of the obituary. It depicts how the Internet is providing new means for the bereaved to communicate with the dead and how these changes might signal new forms of consciousness and avenues of connectivity. Inspired by the findings of media theorist José van Dijck, I argue that online memorials serve both a commemorative and a ‘communicative’ function, allowing for relationships with the deceased to be maintained and for connections to be made with living others. This article also analyzes the Internet’s role as a ‘techno-spiritual system’.

Contributor Notes

Jennifer Huberman is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her research and teaching interests stand at the intersection of economic and psychological anthropology. Her book Ambivalent Encounters: Childhood, Tourism, and Social Change in Banaras, India (2012) provides an ethnographic analysis of encounters between Western tourists and the children who work in the informal tourist economy in the city of Banaras, India. Currently, she is exploring how death in the digital age is reconfiguring experiences of loss, mourning, and memorialization. She is particularly interested in the transhumanist attempt to achieve immortality in digital form through the technology of mind cloning.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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