In this paper I am specifically exploring the production of Physical Evidence of Digital Memorialization (2015), a series of artefacts that employ speculative and critical design as a means to promote discourse on the evolvement of digital memorialization, digital legacy concerns, cultural preservation, and HCIsec. Through research-creation I am addressing how digital cultural practices are embedding themselves in today’s physical memorialization processes. Furthermore I am using the deficiencies of the artefacts from Physical Evidence of Digital Memorialization as a means to forecast interactivity and encryption as the coming developments enacted through Data Tomb.
Recent artworks addressing mortality, in ways that critique emerging technologies and new cultural practices are examined as building connections between the evolvement of identity construction, memory, and bereavement in networked culture. These artworks address how “present and future generations will access the history that is being created and documented in the digital sphere” (Pitsillides, Waller, Fairfax 26). The ideas presented in Digital Death: What Role Does Digital Information Play in The Way We Are (Re)membered? (Pitsillides et al. 2013) will be supported by Audrey Samon’s essay Erasure, an attempt to surpass datafication (2015) and Amanda Lagerkvist’s paper New Memory Cultures and Death: Existential Security in the Digital Memory Ecology (2013). These texts will be used in the critical analysis of Jon Rafman’s A Man Digging (2013), Audrey Samson’s ne.me.quitte.pas (2015), and Karl Toomey’s Quantified Gravestone (2015). As an exploration of material art practices engaging with mortality as a theme inseparable from the digital, these artworks are a product of the times. Accelerationism, network culture and the Quantified Self are contrasted to technological representation of death as experienced in the digital sphere.
While close examination of each of these artworks supports the conceptual development of Data Tomb as an art installation, it is equally important that the scope of my research include the emergence of relevant commercial examples. This research is substantiated by a contextual survey of existing digital gravesites including QR codes, online memorialization services, as well as the existing legal policies that apply to social networks and digital archives. Shifting the focus from art and taking into consideration the consumer, the analytical lens can move to issues of privacy and information economy. James Auger’s Speculative Design: Crafting the Speculation (2013) will provide a theoretical framework for contrasting Physical Evidence of Digital Memorialization to existing artworks and services that “encourage contemplation on the technological future but... also provide a system for analysing, critiquing and re-thinking contemporary technology” (12).