Curating the Digital Afterlife: Analog Histories and Digital Futures

Faculty: Dr. Tonia Sutherland


Our data doesn’t just disappear when we die. Particularly concerned with the ways people whose lives are lived in the margins are commodified after death through digital afterlife practices, this course interrogates what happens to data created by, for, and about people when they die. The course tracks historical social interactions between humans and their data alongside the development of postmortem data technologies, engaging in critical discussions of key issues that arise from the scale and speed of personal data creation, capture, collection, use, and reuse. Students in this course will gain a deeper understanding of existing digital afterlife technologies; engage critically with points of intersection between digital afterlife practices and vulnerable communities; and be better prepared to make recommendations and decisions not only for the digital remains of others, but also about their own digital afterlives. Course topics include (but are not limited to): 

  • The Digital Afterlives of Atlantic Slavery Archives
  • Tupac, Whitney, and Muhammad Ali: Emerging Practices in Digital Resurrection
  • Chatbots, AI, and Black Mirror: Our Present and Our Future
  • The Right to be Remembered
  • The Right to be Forgotten

Years taught: 2022