INOV - Sociétés innovantes

Digital eternities. Post mortem digital identities and new memorial uses of the web from a gender perspective. – ENEID

Submission summary

The lasting of digital data, after the death of its users, raise nowadays several questions. What become of the identity data of web users after their death? Do they care about them when they are still alive? How do relatives deal with these data? How do major actors of the web, such as Facebook and Google, manage them? As any other digital and funeral practices, those post mortem digital practices are gendered. This project wants to shed a light on the gender dimension of these practices. How does the gender of the dead person and of those who pay tribute to him/her structure the memorial uses and the construction of post mortem identities? Such questions seem crucial when taking into account the multiplication of digital programs dedicated to memorial practices and the dramatic importance of social networks in relation to the aging of web users.

For a few years, international research has explored the social issues raised by profiles of dead users, as well as the changes in the mourning practices on the web, but has paid little attention to gender issues. In France, only a few research projects have been conducted on the thematic. Even more, if theses works articulate digital practices and death or question the gender dimension of mourning, none develop a specific gender perspective on digital practices related to death.

The study of death enlightens social structure and raises individual and collective issues such as the historical conceptions of the body and self-representation. This research project aims at analysing the memorial uses of the web and the construction of digital post mortem identities, by using a gender perspective and by revealing their social, economic, legal and symbolic issues. To deal with such interdisciplinary questions, this project relies on a theoretical framework made of information and communication sciences, gender studies, sociology, computer sciences and philosophy. It pays a particular attention to the development of innovative methods in visualisation.

The implementation of this project consists in 6 different tasks. We propose to conduct a qualitative and quantitative analysis of memorial uses on the web in France (Task 1), an analysis of the transmedia circulation of tributes to celebrities (Task 2), and a semiotic analysis of the web memorials and of the post mortem identities they build (Task 3). These three tasks will be conducted all together during the two first years of the project. The results will be exploited during the third year in a multidisciplinary synthesis. The objective of this fourth task (Task 4) is to address the re-composition of gender and digital identities in the memorial uses of the web in France, in comparison with other geographic areas (China, USA). During the whole project (3 years), valorisation (Task 5) and coordination (Task 6) are conducted independently.

The consortium assembles 2 partners. Partner 1 is the CIM research center, at Paris 3 University, specialised in Media Studies and digital practices (Team Media, Culture and Digital Practices). Members from the Labsic research center (Paris 13) are associated to the CIM. Partner 2 is COSTECH, at the Technological University of Compiègne. This interdisciplinary research centre focuses on the social stakes of technologies. The consortium shares common research themes, especially the social, political, economic, symbolic and philosophic stakes in information and communication technologies, and an experience in working together on previous research project (ARPEGE).

Project coordination

Fanny GEORGES (Laboratoire Communication, Information, Médias)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UTC Université de Technologie de Compiègne
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 Laboratoire Communication, Information, Médias

Help of the ANR 315,968 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2014 - 42 Months

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