The continuity principle of digital remains

Tal Morse, Michael Birnhack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The digitization of social interactions and daily activities means that multiple aspects of our daily lives are documented and stored, and social interactions leave digital traces. The accumulated data do not evaporate upon death, and questions about posthumous privacy and impression management arise. Drawing on eight focus groups comprised of Israeli Internet users from various backgrounds, the article points to the perceived interrelation between posthumous impression management and respect toward the dead and identifies a pervasive normative stance that advocates for the continuation of privacy management from life to after death. We call it the continuity principle. The living users position their personal data across two axes of public–private and in life–after death and manage access to their data accordingly. The findings suggest that given a digital footprint and possibilities to access digital remains, the separation between life and death erodes. However, users opine that in-life norms should linger and survive death.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Digital legacy
  • digital remains
  • mourning
  • posthumous impression management
  • posthumous privacy

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