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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.
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.
ItemThe Ethics of Multiplayer Game Design and Community ManagementA. Sparrow, L ; Gibbs, M ; Arnold, M (ACM, 2021-05)Game industry professionals are frequently implementing new methods of addressing ethical issues related to in-game toxicity and disruptive player behaviours associated with online multiplayer games. However, academic work on these behaviours tends to focus on the perspectives of players rather than the industry. To fully understand the ethics of multiplayer games and promote ethical design, we must examine the challenges facing those designing multiplayer games through an ethical lens. To this end, this paper presents a reflexive thematic analysis of 21 in-depth interviews with games industry professionals on their ethical views and experiences in game design and community management. We identify a number of tensions involved in making ethics-related design decisions for divided player communities alongside current game design practices that are concerned with functionality, revenue and entertainment. We then put forward a set of design considerations for integrating ethics into multiplayer game design.