I've blogged about death and the internet before, but my attention was caught this last week by a NYT piece, Rituals of Grief Go Online:
Just as the Web has changed long-established rituals of romance and socializing, personal Web pages on social networking sites that include MySpace, Xanga.com and Facebook.com are altering the rituals of mourning. Such sites have enrolled millions of users in recent years, especially the young, who use them to expand their personal connections and to tell the wider world about their lives.
Inevitably, some of these young people have died — prematurely, in accidents, suicides, murders and from medical problems — and as a result, many of their personal Web pages have suddenly changed from lighthearted daily dairies about bands or last night's parties into online shrines where grief is shared in real time.
The pages offer often wrenching views of young lives interrupted, and in the process have created a dilemma for bereaved parents, who find themselves torn between the comfort derived from having access to their children's private lives and staying in contact with their friends, and the unease of grieving in a public forum witnessed by anyone, including the ill-intentioned.
"The upside is definitely that we still have some connection with her and her friends," said Bob Shorkey, a graphic artist in North Carolina whose 24-year-old stepdaughter, Katie Knudson, was killed on Feb. 23 in a drive-by shooting in Fort Myers, Fla. "But because it's public, your life is opened up to everyone out there, and that's definitely the downside.
Many issues here, but this brings back to my mind Don Park's 2004 post, Social Software for the Deads, and Anil Dash's 2003 post, maybe it's not just hype. It was Anil Dash's post that led me to Ty Longley's site, now seemingly only to be reached via Wayback, here.
Amongst so much else, we need to be thinking how the web we're co-creating can remember the dead — and what issues and risks attend such online, open-access "memorials".