Future Dead: Designing Disposal for Both Dead Bodies and Digital Data

Jakob Borrits Sabra

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Today the dying and the bereaved attend memorialization both online and offline. Cemeteries, urns, coffins, graves, memorials, monuments, websites, social network sites, applications and software services, form technologies that are influenced by discourse, culture, public, professional and economic power. They constitute parts of an intricately weaved and interrelated network of practices and designs dealing with death, mourning, memorialization and remembrance.

The paper presents findings from two research projects; the 2015 exhibition Death: The Human Experience at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (bristolmuseums.org.uk) and the Future Cemetery Design Competition 2016 held by the Centre for Death and Society and Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol (futurecemetery.org).

Grounded in sociological theory on death and memorialization technologies, ethnographic fieldwork and survey results (n=348), this paper examines and discuss subjective and collective attitudes and approaches towards death and memorialization technologies, mobilities of death and disposal and the perspectives offered by new digital online solutions and services for memory and legacy.

Based on the research findings the author questions how death and disposal is perceived by a British (urban) public and if death has been liberated from social and individual emotional regulation or is (still) constrained by subjective and/or collective regulation. The design proposals from the Future Cemetery Design Competition 2016 are used to argue the above and reveal insights from the field of practice (art, technology and design) by discussing some of the creative solutions, ideas, scenarios, fictions and concrete examples of how to deal with dead bodies, digital identities and legacy construction in a hyper-connected and digitally mediated society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date21 Jan 2016
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2016
EventThe Futures of End of Life Symposium - Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jan 201622 Jan 2016
Conference number: 1


ConferenceThe Futures of End of Life Symposium
LocationLancaster University
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • death
  • memorial
  • futures
  • afterlife
  • memory
  • heritage
  • memorial sites
  • data
  • digital
  • design
  • body
  • remembrance
  • immortality
  • culture
  • social media
  • cemetery
  • grave


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