Death & the online self

Today’s post at The Pastry Box was about death and digital legacies. Which is actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while; I know I wrote about it here at least as early as 2006. Ok, actually those were pretty raw live-blogging notes, but this remains the it for me: “if grandma had had flickr, we would’ve known what the hell that storage unit of photos was about.”

My paternal grandmother was a hoarder and a shutterbug. She was also married four or five times, first and last to grandpa. They got remarried well after Dad and Aunt Susie were grown. So there was a long stretch of time in her life where she was taking pictures of people, and when she died, those pictures were in boxes, and no one in her life then knew who the people in them were. It was all just junk as far as any of us knew.

(There was a lot of ACTUAL junk as well. Helping to clean out her stuff was an intense and emotionally harrowing experience.)

I wrote then that we would’ve known what those photos were about, and in 2006, with smaller storage space in cameras, maybe so. But when you take 1000s of pictures, how many of them have enough information attached that a loved one would understand the stories behind them?

My father had a long stretch of adult life away from home before my parents were married, and really, they were married a shorter time than I’ve been married. (I can’t quite wrap my head around that.) Would he have kept a blog? Would he have had a Flickr or a Tumblr or anything like that? How would it have been around by the time we were old enough to do anything about it? Could I have known him through his own recorded self? How would it be different from the fragmentary family stories, the odd realizations I get from little objects he once owned?

Dylan talked about keeping your virtual self going after death at Ignite Seattle in 2009. I sort of wonder what might be different now, and how much it connects to being able to export, so that when you die, your relatives can export your Facebook photos five years from now when Facebook implodes (or whatever).

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