Elaine Kasket is a Professor of Psychology, an author, and an expert in the intersection of online life and death.In All the Ghosts in the Machine: The Digital Afterlife of Your Personal Data (Robinson, 2019), she argues that what happens to our data when we die is the perfect lens for understanding the true power of big tech. She’s currently writing Exposed: A Life in Data (Elliott & Thompson Books).
Gone but not logged off: Why now’s the time to talk about ‘digital afterlife’. When our physical bodies cease to be, our digital ‘flesh’ remains, by default if not design. The rapidly accumulating online dead, deceased citizens of a data-stuffed digital age, walk alongside the living in our brave new world. We struggle to understand who these posthumously persistent entities belong to, where they should go, who should control or access them, and even what they are. In any case, the ongoing emanation of a kind of humanity in digital remains means that, increasingly, they demand not just our practical management but our moral consideration. There’s the rub. The stewardship of these digital remains falls largely to the various platforms and apps to which we entrust our data in life, like social media companies not known for their moral fibre. For TEDx Oxford, I explain why it is now critical that we address the social, ethical and practical dilemmas posed by the online dead, and why Facebook should not be the funeral director of the future. IMAGE CRED: Daniel Oduntan.