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Platforms for Haunting: The Talking Dead

The relationship between death and technology is as old as human civilisation; from cenotaph to facebook memorial, industries have been built on our desire to remember and be remembered. Technology now enables us to create spine-chilling immersive experiences; allowing us to embody the worlds of our ancestors, enter our ghost stories and even plan a little post-mortem haunting ourselves. We want to move the conversation beyond discussions of data legacy to ask whether we can engender a new form of history, one that allows us to interact with the dead.
Bringing together experts in human remains, memorialisation and new technology this Panel will explore our relationship with mortality in a digital age. The discussion will draw on recent projects which have used new technology to augment cemeteries, populate historic sites with ghosts of their past and instigate twitter conversations with a 1,610 year old woman.


Additional Supporting Materials


  1. What might a 21st Century séance look like? Communing with the dead has been the preserve of ministers and mediums for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Panel will discuss the creative potential of our desire to communicate beyond the grave for technologists and experience designers in the digital age.
  2. How can we create a haunted house worthy of the name? Commercial offerings that play on our love of ghosts and ghouls have tended to be less than thrilling. We will explore how a deeper understanding of the human relationship with mortality might elicit a richer emotional response from users; whether that be fear, sorrow or joy.
  3. We accept that tech is changing the way that we live but is it also changing the way that we die? Do new ways of commemorating the dead signal a step change in how we remember our loved ones or is just the latest trend in a long history of memorial fashions? We will explore whether new technologies are having a fundamental impact on how people approach end of life planning.
  4. Do you want to live on, online, after you die? New developments in technology mean that people can interact, in avatar form, online after their own death. This is likely to be just the first of many options for designing post-mortem digital identities. We will ask what the possibilities of this for storytelling, performance and artistic practice might be.
  5. What are the ethical frameworks for all of this? All of the above raise uneasy but important questions about respect and mortality. The Panel will discuss how these issues should be approached sensitively with an audience and ask what the balance is between being sensitive and brave in designing creative experiences.



Jo Lansdowne, REACT Producer, Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed

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