DEATH ON FACEBOOK
DEATH ON FACEBOOK
Exploring the collective experience of mourning in the digital realm.
The growth of social network sites has resulted in an increasing number of profiles representing deceased users. Nowadays over 6 million accounts on Facebook belong to dead people. The “Death on Facebook” project focused on improving the collective experience of mourning in the digital realm.
School of Arts and Communication (K3) > Faculty of Culture and Society > Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden
Time & Location
October 2014. Malmö, Sweden.
This project was carried out during the “Introduction to Multidisciplinary Interaction Design” course led by Jonas Löwgren and Mette Agger Eriksen, as part of the Interaction Design Master Course of the School of Arts and Communication (K3) at Malmö University, Malmö Sweden
Kent Cam (Front-end Developer), Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson (Product Designer), Sarah Homewood (Contemporary Dancer and Interaction Designer) and Isabel Valdés Marín (Interaction Designer and Concept Developer).
Social Media Networks, Mourning, Digital Legacy, Death, Video Sketching, Video Prototyping, Wireframes, Lo-fi Prototype, Brainstorming, Questionnaire, Body Storming, Roleplaying
Our fieldwork began by focusing on people’s own feelings about their data after death. What we found was that the main concerns were about security and their family being able to have some way to review their profiles. We decided to focus on those left behind. We began to work on improving the collective experience of losing someone in the digital realm. Our fieldwork also showed the range of opinions on what should happen to a dead Facebook page, so it became really important to us to make our concept customizable. As each person’s Facebook page and news feed is the sum of their friendship network we didn’t want to do anything that would affect the hard data of the dead person’s profile, only each individual’s view of it. Arnold van Gennep wrote in “the rites of passage” about the survivor of the dead being reintegrated back into the community at the same time as the deceased is travelling to the final spiritual destination. When we read this we knew we wanted to create some kind of final collective experience for the mourners and to mimic this journey from a solitary experience to collective experience. We also looked at many types of therapy including art and movement therapy and found theories to support that tangibility was very important as a tool to achieve acceptance, the final stage of loss. We wanted to use this to transport the mourner from the digital to the solid world around them.
Main Findings & Concerns
It seems to be a disconnection between what the deceased wanted, what the family wants, and what the deceased’s community wants. We want to let users decide whether they want their friend’s accounts deleted from their networks or left it how it is. Facebook users shape their profiles to express how they see themselves, crafting an identity to share with the world. After they die, it’s possible for well-meaning loved ones to “hijack” that identity. We do not want to alter the identity and self-expression of the dead user. Today Facebook is changing Rituals of mourning, we don’t only have to grieve at a prescribed time and place. Grieving is evolving into something we can do anywhere, anytime. We want to push the boundaries of the social media, we want it to connect with our physical context. Funerals and mourning rituals have served, during human history, to help communities to deal with their pain and to get reintegrated into society. We believe that online mourning should help people to move on and to come back to the collective experience.
When a friend dies on Facebook you are informed about it but only when you go into his or her profile. You are then invited to take part in a collaborative experience with other members of the persons network. You can take your own time to get to the stage where you are ready to let go. Once you are ready, you can contribute with a thought, video, picture, recorded vocal or a drawing which you place inside a virtual panoramic sky that surrounds you wherever you are at the given moment. The virtual panoramic sky is dedicated to the lost friend and is put together out of contributions from the network. There you have the opportunity to experience what others have contributed until the virtual sky fades away never to come back again.
Wireframe - Low-fi Demo:
Field research, interviews, survey, academic research
Brainstorming, Bodystorming, Visualizations, Roleplaying
Video Sketching, video prototyping , low-fi prototyping, wireframing