School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications
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ItemHOUSEHOLD DIGITAL MEDIA ECOLOGIES - METHODOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS FOR FOSTERING RESEARCHER-PARTICIPANT TRUSTKennedy, J ; Wilken, R ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M (University of Illinois Libraries, )In this paper, we describe a research methodology we have developed, based upon digital ethnography approaches, and which used mobile devices, digital ethnographic software and creative data collection activities. Our approach, refined over the course of a number of interconnected research projects, addressed these difficulties through a staged process – utilising traditional ethnographic techniques, but augmenting them with something more novel: the “domestic probe”. In essence, the domestic probe comprised a box of equipment given to the household to use in order to record and interpret their use of domestic technologies. In more recent work, we extended our participatory approach through the use of digital media, such as by using iPad minis pre-loaded with a data collection software tool, Ethnocorder. As we argue in this paper, these approaches carry three specific trust-related methodological benefits (and challenges): the foster trust in us as researchers; trust in our participants as co-researchers; and, as a result of this mutual researcher-participant trust, insight and a productive point of entry into discussing participant "domestication" of, and trust in, various household technologies.
ItemRobot death care: A study of funerary practiceGould, H ; Arnold, M ; Kohn, T ; Nansen, B ; Gibbs, M (SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC, 2021-07-01)Across the globe, human experiences of death, dying, and grief are now shaped by digital technologies and, increasingly, by robotic technologies. This article explores how practices of care for the dead are transformed by the participation of non-human, mechanised agents. We ask what makes a particular robot engagement with death a breach or an affirmation of care for the dead by examining recent entanglements between humans, death, and robotics. In particular, we consider telepresence robots for remote attendance of funerals; semi-humanoid robots officiating in a religious capacity at memorial services; and the conduct of memorial services by robots, for robots. Using the activities of robots to ground our discussion, this article speaks to broader cultural anxieties emerging in an era of high-tech life and high-tech death, which involve tensions between human affect and technological effect, machinic work and artisanal work, humans and non-humans, and subjects and objects.
ItemThe disposition of the destituteArnold, M ; Nansen, B ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M ; Gould, H (Council to Homeless Persons, 2019)The final disposition is a term used by people in the funeral industry to refer to the burial or cremation of a dead person. The final disposition is a profoundly important event, not simply a pragmatic or material process, and its significance is expressed through ritualised performances. The disposition and its rituals are shared and communal, involving ceremonies attended by the deceased’s family, friends, and community, whilst less indirectly the disposition is shared by wider social norms and values around the proper treatment of the deceased body. Although the disposition is common to us all, then, it is also a personalised event in which the particularity of the life lived is recognised. Similarly, the place of interment, whether body or ashes, is named and marked to recognise the individual life of the deceased. Places of interment are thus not only identified, but are also accessible to family, friends and community, for the purpose of ongoing visitation and remembrance.
ItemNo Preview Available‘Death by Twitter’: Understanding false death announcements on social media and the performance of platform cultural capitalNansen, B ; O'Donnell, D ; Arnold, M ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M (University of Illinois Libraries, 2019)In this paper, we analyse false death announcements of public figures on social media and public responses to them. The analysis draws from a range of public sources to collect and categorise the volume of false death announcements on Twitter and undertakes a case study analysis of representative examples. We classify false death announcements according to five overarching types: accidental; misreported; misunderstood; hacked; and hoaxed. We identify patterns of user responses, which cycle through the sharing of the news, to personal grief, to a sense of uncertainty or disbelief. But we also identify more critical and cultural responses to such death announcements in relation to misinformation and the quality of digital news, or cultures of hoax and disinformation on social media. Here we see the performance of online identity through a form that we describe, following Bourdieu as ‘platform cultural capital’.
ItemMedia, mortality and necro-technologies: Eulogies for dead mediaNansen, B ; Gould, H ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-07-09)Working at the intersection of death studies and media studies, this article examines what we can learn from the death of media technologies designed for the deceased, what we refer to as necro-technologies. Media deaths illuminate a tension between the promise of persistence and realities of precariousness embodied in all media. This tension is, however, more visibly strained by the mortality of technologies designed to mediate and memorialise the human dead by making explicit the limitations of digital eternity implied by products in the funeral industry. In this article, we historicise and define necro-technologies within broader discussions of media obsolescence and death. Drawing from our funeral industry fieldwork, we then provide four examples of recently deceased necro-technologies that are presented in the form of eulogies. These eulogies offer a stylised but culturally significant format of remembrance to create an historical record of the deceased and their life. These necro-technologies are the funeral attendance robot CARL, the in-coffin sound system CataCombo, the posthumous messaging service DeadSocial and the digital avatar service Virtual Eternity. We consider what is at stake when technologies designed to enliven the human deceased – often in perpetuity – are themselves subject to mortality. We suggest a number of entangled economic, cultural and technical reasons for the failure of necro-technologies within the specific contexts of the death care industry, which may also help to highlight broader forces of mortality affecting all media technologies. These are described as misplaced commercial imaginaries, cultural reticence and material impermanence. In thinking about the deaths of necro-technologies, and their causes, we propose a new form of death, a ‘material death’ that extends beyond biological, social and memorial forms of human death already established to account for the finitude of media materiality and memory.
ItemAutomating Digital AfterlivesFordyce, R ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M ; Jansson, A ; Adams, PC (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-26)The question of how the dead “live on” by maintaining a presence and connecting to the living within social networks has garnered the attention of users, entrepreneurs, platforms, and researchers alike. In this chapter we investigate the increasingly ambiguous terrain of posthumous connection and disconnection by focusing on a diverse set of practices implemented by users and offered by commercial services to plan for and manage social media communication, connection, and presence after life. Drawing on theories of self-presentation (Goffman) and technological forms of life (Lash), we argue that moderated and automated performances of posthumous digital presence cannot be understood as a continuation of personal identity or self-presentation. Rather, as forms of mediated human (after)life, posthumous social media presence materializes ambiguities of connection/disconnection and self/identity.
ItemNo Preview AvailableDigital housekeepers and domestic expertise in the networked homeKennedy, J ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Wilken, R ; Gibbs, M (Sage Publications, 2015-11-01)This article examines the distribution of expertise in the performance of ‘digital housekeeping’ required to maintain a networked home. It considers the labours required to maintain a networked home, the forms of digital expertise that are available and valued in digital housekeeping, and ways in which expertise is gendered in distribution amongst household members. As part of this discussion, we consider how digital housekeeping implicitly situates technology work within the home in the role of the ‘housekeeper’, a term that is complicated by gendered sensitivities. Digital housework, like other forms of domestic labour, contributes to identity and self-worth. The concept of housework also affords visibility of the digital housekeeper’s enrolment in the project of maintaining the household. This article therefore asks, what is at stake in the gendered distribution of digital housekeeping?
ItemDeath and the Internet: Consumer issues for planning and managing digital legacies (2nd edition)Nansen, B ; van der Nagel, E ; Kohn, T ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M (Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, 2017-12-01)
ItemMethodological and ethical concerns associated with digital ethnography in domestic environments: participation burden and burdensome technologiesNansen, B ; Wilken, R ; Kennedy, J ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M ; Warr, D ; Waycott, J ; Guillemin, M ; Cox, S (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)This chapter reflects on methodological and ethical issues arising in a digital ethnography project conducted in domestic environments. The participatory aims of the methodological approach required participants to produce a series of videos exploring domestic digital environments. The videos were then uploaded using an ethnographic software application. Early in the project it became evident that researchers had limited control over important aspects of the technology, and that the technology itself was having disruptive effects in households. Further, although the study was designed to be engaging and playful for participants, the tasks of producing the videos was perceived by some participants as requiring onerous levels of creativity and digital media literacy. The chapter discusses these methodological and ethical issues, and how they were largely resolved.
ItemResearching Death Onlinevan Ryn, L ; KOHN, T ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M ; Hjorth, L ; Horst, H ; Galloway, A ; Bell, G (Routledge, 2017)Death now knocks in a digital age. When the time is nigh, whether from natural causes at a ripe age, or from accidents or illness when young, the word goes out through a range of technologies and then various communities gather offline and online. Digital ethnography in this “death” sphere has been growing in form and possibility over the past two decades as various platforms are designed and become occupied with the desires of the living and dying. Online funerals and commemorative activities are now often arranged alongside the perhaps more somber rites of burial or cremation (Boellstorff 2008, 128). Services such as LivesOn promise that we shall be able to “tweet” beyond the grave; members of online communities encounter each other on commemorative online sites where they grieve for a shared friend but never meet each other “in person”; and it is predicted that soon there will be more Facebook profiles of the dead than of the living.
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