Tag Archives: journals

Death, Afterlife, and Immortality of Bodies and Data

sanctriIn May of 2013 the journal The Information Society published a special issue called Death, Afterlife, and Immortality of Bodies and Data. I just discovered this, thanks to a post by the Centre for Medical Humanities (@mdiclhumanities). The post announced an upcoming research symposium on ” the digital mediation of dying, death, mourning and personal legacy.” The intent of the symposium: to discuss “how online connectivity is changing how, when and where we engage with death.” When I followed a link to the Death Online Research site, I found the special issue, plus a fairly substantial bibliography of publications on the subject of death online.

What follows are the abstracts from that special issue. Note that all content is behind a paywall, with the exception of the article Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Site for the Expansion of Death and Mourning. I have added the emphasis that appears in the abstracts (out of consideration for those who have “only so much time”).


Introduction to the Special Issue on the Death, Afterlife, and Immortality of Bodies and Data

Connor Graham, Martin Gibbs & Lanfranco Aceti

This special issue poses questions concerning death, afterlife and immortality in the age of the Internet. It extends previous work by examining current and emerging practices of grieving and memorializing supported by new media. It suggests that people’s lives today are extended, prolonged, and ultimately transformed through the new circulations, repetitions, and recontextualizations on the Internet and other platforms. It also shows that publics are being formed and connected with in new ways, and new practices and rituals are emerging, as the traditional notions of the body are being challenged. We argue that these developments have implications for how people will be discovered and conceived of in the future. We consider possible extensions to the research presented here in terms of people, practices, and data. First, some sections of the population, in particular those who are the dying and populations in developing countries and the Global South, have largely been neglected to date. Second, practices such as (online) suicide and sacrilegious or profane behaviors remain largely uninvestigated. Third, the discussion of the management of the digital self after death has only begun. We conclude by posing further questions concerning the prospect of emerging cities of the dead.

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Subjectivity: The journal

subjectivity-journal-coverI discovered the journal Subjectivity thanks to a link on Dennis Fox’s Critical Psychology website. Here’s a brief, subjective self-description provided by the journal:

Subjectivity is an exciting and innovative transdisciplinary journal in the social sciences. Re-launched by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008, it examines the socio-political, cultural, historical and material processes, dynamics and structures of human experience.

Here’s a somewhat lengthier description from the same page, emphasizing “transdisciplinarity”. (To distnguish transdisciplinarity from interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity, see here.) (Emphasis in the last sentence below is mine.)

Subjectivity has been an important concept for academic research as well as for intervening in social and political life since the 1960s and 1970s. The idea of subjectivity had a catalytic impact in changing the terms of the debate in the social sciences: in anthropology, geography, psychology, sociology, post colonial theory, gender studies, cultural and media studies, social theory as well as the humanities.

Subjectivity attempts to capture ongoing debates and activities and to foster a discourse on subjectivity which goes beyond traditional dichotomies between the various disciplines.

The journal aims at a re-prioritization of subjectivity as a primary category of social, cultural, psychological, historical and political analysis. It wishes to encourage a variety of transdisciplinary engagements with this topic in theory as well as empirical research, and, accordingly, to advance the potential of engagement with subjectivity/subjectivities as a locus of social change and a means of political intervention.

Can academic papers inspire social change?

That certainly strikes me as a worthy goal, but social change and political intervention are extremely difficult, no? I’m not sure they can be accomplished by disseminating academic articles. Perhaps it’s a start. Perhaps it’s a way for those who share that goal to find each other. But if we find each other, are we then doing nothing more than simply talking to each other (preaching to the choir, as the cliché has it)? And if we are talking to each other, shouldn’t we at least be doing that in public, like on Twitter, where Subjectivity does not appear to have a presence? (There is a Facebook page, but it contains only announcements, not discussion.) Read more