Tanja Baudoin

Death of the Author, Survival of the Avatar

Can the dead still be involved in social networking?


Last Riot video by AES+F - Still found at AES+F website

There are a lot of websites that revolve around remembering the dead. For instance, Tributes is a site where you can search obituaries and make a tribute to your lost loved one; they say '60-seconds is all it takes to create your FREE tribute'. Similarly, Respectance is an online service where you can create a memorial profile and share photos and stories about the deceased. Respectance does not only function as a memorial website, it is also a place for social networking. Users can invite family and friends to become members, so they can leave comments and add memories to the profile and mourn the dead in a community setting. MyDeathSpace is also a kind of community website (unaffiliated with MySpace), where you can sign up and submit obituaries and news articles on deaths of MySpace members, as well as log into the forum and discuss specific deaths with other users.

Besides the possibility to create a profile for a deceased friend or family member, it is also an option to make your own memorial website in advance. At Mylastemail you can create an an online memorial with photographs, a farewell video and a testament. After your death, your family and friends can gain access to your profile, but it is not available to your online contacts. At Electronic Time Capsule, you can make a 'time capsule' with stories, memories and pictures, that is released to your contact list at the time of your choice. This kind of service is the closest you can get to communicating from beyond the grave with your online friends.

Or is it? The Dutch artist collective Pips:Lab created a theater/media/art performance around the idea of social networking for the dead. During a theater show Pips:Lab asked the audience to sign up for their service, with the aim of continuing communication with each other after death. Pips:Lab also 'uploaded souls' to their website. The actual website, called Diespace, is presented as 'the first interactive internet community for people who have passed away'.