Call: The Information Society: Death, Afterlife and Immortality of Bodies and Data

CALL FOR PAPERS: Special Issue of The Information Society

TITLE: The Death, Afterlife and Immortality of Bodies and Data


GUEST EDITORS: Connor Graham, Martin Gibbs, Dave Kirk, John Phillips

As emergent information technologies increasingly pervade people’s lives, they are also increasingly a part of their dying and their deaths. Digital fragments such as text messages, Web pages, social networking sites, blog comments and so on populate an identity that promises to linger through these shards of ourselves as never before. However, as bodies decay and decompose after death, so do the digital fragments of the deceased slowly ossify and become fixed yet fragmentary traces of the life that once was. These “digital life documents” (Plummer, 1983) are then not only dependent on the producer and their immediate connections. They are also supportive of connections that remain after the producer is no longer alive as a part of larger ecologies of interests and exchanges where rules and customs are still evolving.

There is a temptation to apply what we know of the analogue world to the digital and argue that digital media will simply replace the physical stuff of rituals, ceremonies and ongoing remembering. These are the kinds of assumptions we wish to question and probe through this special issue. Our interests extend beyond commentary, discussion and debate around remembering and commemoration. They also extend beyond consideration of issues of access (i.e. who can get at the remains of the dead and how), representation (i.e. how the dead and their remains can be represented), control (i.e. who manages the transition from being to being remembered and how this is done) and maintenance (i.e. who is responsible for keeping the dead’s fragments available, accessible etc). Through examples drawn from actual cases, thorough analyses and well‐argued conceptual discussions we also wish to address the practical, social, conceptual and ethical issues with: 

  • dealing with the physical and digital remnants of the once living.
  • the ongoing management of the social ties between the living and the dead.
  • the management of the ‘stuff’ (i.e. bodies, data, objects) involved in death.
  • the possible extension of ‘being-in-the-world’ through the hybridisation of once living, sentient beings with other biological and robotic entities.
  • support for death cults and desecration through digital technologies.
  • the potential for immortality through digital macabre celebrations of death (e.g., digital mashups of the dead’s digital fragments (e.g.‐victor).
  • new forms of grieving and commemorating via emerging technologies through, for example, the generation of digital archives for individuals and ‘those that follow’ alike (e.g.
  • different visions of the preservation, afterlife and immortality of self and society through the digital.
  • cultural issues with dying, death, afterlife and technology.

We wish to elicit submissions that address themes relevant to this call and, more generally, to “The Information Society” journal ( We hope to gather together a series of articles that are accessible to non‐specialists to deepen our understanding of issues concerning technology, death and afterlife and immortality through new data, perspectives, conceptual treatments and/or analyses.

Appropriate longer submissions (up to 7,500 words) include: 

  • Extended reports from the field;
  • Critical literature reviews;
  • Discursive pieces exploring themes;
  • Deployments/evaluations of relevant technologies.

Shorter submissions (4,000 words) can include:

  • Reflections on approaches and methods;
  • Opinion pieces;
  • Early reports on studies of technologies in situ;
  • Design proposals addressing particular themes.

Papers are due on 8th November 2010. We aim to return reviews with feedback on acceptance/rejection and the need for any changes four months after that. We recommend authors familiarise themselves with the scope and demands of “The Information Society” journal ( ) before submitting. Submission guidelines for authors are available from: . Authors should send digital manuscripts to: Connor Graham (cgraham [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au) or Martin Gibbs (martin [dot] gibbs [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au). Authors should also feel free to correspond with the special issue editors if they have any questions or are planning to submit an article.

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