Automating digital afterlives

Robbie Fordyce, Bjørn Nansen, Michael Arnold, Tamara Kohn, Martin Gibbs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The question of how the dead “live on” by maintaining a presence and connecting to the living within social networks has garnered the attention of users, entrepreneurs, platforms, and researchers alike. In this chapter we investigate the increasingly ambiguous terrain of posthumous connection and disconnection by focusing on a diverse set of practices implemented by users and offered by commercial services to plan for and manage social media communication, connection, and presence after life. Drawing on theories of self-presentation (Goffman) and technological forms of life (Lash), we argue that moderated and automated performances of posthumous digital presence cannot be understood as a continuation of personal identity or self-presentation. Rather, as forms of mediated human (after)life, posthumous social media presence materializes ambiguities of connection/disconnection and self/identity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisentangling
Subtitle of host publicationThe Geographies of Digital Disconnection
EditorsAndré Jansson , Paul C. Adams
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780197571873
ISBN (Print)9780197571880
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Algorithms
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation
  • Death
  • Digital afterlife
  • Digital trace
  • Online identity
  • Platforms
  • Self
  • Self-presentation

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