The recent killings of George Floyd and other people of color by police officers has sparked international outrage, protests and mourning. In-person protests and marches have rippled throughout the globe, but calls for social and political change are not only taking place on city streets. Digital spaces – social media, blogs, news media and videos - have become equally important tools of remembrance and mobilization.
The forms of digital remembrance occurring today are not new, however. Online memorials first appeared after the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, and again after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks. These spaces allowed for new forms of collective mourning to take place while creating space for important conversations around issues we face as a society.
While these societal displays of mourning are highly visible, we must remember that for most the act of remembrance is a much more personal and intimate act. Throughout human history we've created spaces and rituals for loss, yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic not only have we had less access to these spaces, but less access to each other. During this time some of us have had to experience loss from afar, unable to gather and mourn with loved ones.
When physical spaces of remembrance and memorialization move into the digital realm, how can we create the same mental space and intentionality that physical spaces and gatherings provide? Digital environments have traditionally been thought of as secondary to the physical, but can digital experiences be considered as authentic as their physical counterparts?
Mandy Benoualid is the co-founder and President of Keeper, a collaborative online memorial platform where friends and family can remember and celebrate those who are dearly missed with stories, tribute messages, photos, videos, milestones, and more.. Mandy is also the editor of the death positive media site, TalkDeath.com, interviews death professionals for the web series #TalkDeath, and regularly speaks at funeral and cemetery conferences.
At 27, and after 7 years of being her Caregiver, Iana lost her mother to Breast Cancer. At 31 years old, she lost her father to Brain Cancer. Since then Iana has dedicated her life to the support of Caregivers and all those managing life after loss. Outside of her work as a Community Manager for The Dinner Party, Iana is a birth and death Doula. She is a Yoga and Meditation teacher and leads Wellness retreats worldwide with her company Bliss Out Retreats. She is currently traveling around the US and Canada in a converted school bus with her husband and pitbull, writing about Race and Peace in the United States on her blog NamasteUSA and talking about designing a life Post Pandemic on her podcast The Collective Reset.
Sean is fascinated by human computer interaction and how technology affects human to human interaction. He believes the internet is not just a conduit, but also a medium for stories, ideas, and culture. As the techie of the family, Sean has played the role of digital archivist for several loved ones over the years, which kindled his interest in the area of digital memory preservation, ethics, and legacy. Currently Sean works @ IDEO designing the future of media+technology experiences. His work has been published, presented, and exhibited internationally.