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Online Memorialisation: The Web As A Collective Memorial Landscape For Remembering The Dead



Memorialising the dead is an integral part of human nature that can be traced back to the dawn of civilization. With the advent of the Internet however, a new space, or cyberspace, allows the living to remember the dead in geographically diverse and interactive ways. Using a unique model based on the motivations and characteristics of physical memorials, this paper investigates how one part of cyberspace, the Web, is used for memorialisation practice. It also attempts to discover why memorialisation may have been adopted online, in addition to possible links between the remembrance of the dead in the physical space and online, before finally discussing the Web as a collective memorial landscape.
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FCJ-014 Online Memorialisation: The Web As A Collective
Memorial Landscape For Remembering The Dead
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Kylie Veale
Curtin University of Technology
“The life of the dead consists in being present in the minds of the living.” Cicero
In the last ten thousand years, our deceased antecedents are thought to number over one hundred
billion (see Davies, 1994). Not much has been recorded about them, unless they were famous, rich or
fortunate enough to have been catapulted into the memory of others. It was therefore up to the general
public to ‘individualise’ the deaths of the rest through mortuary ritual, an accomplishment to which
archaeologists and our cemeteries can attest today. Individualisation via memorialisation has become
a way for past and current societies to commemorate life on the event of a death. To that end,
memorialisation provides one of a group of artefacts used by historians, genealogists and the like to
document history and family links.
[The] memorialisation of departed loved ones seems to be an integral part of human
nature that can be traced back to the dawn of civilization. Throughout prehistoric times
and into recorded history, there is a common thread of honouring the dead … as early as
35,000 BC, Cro-Magnon man practiced ritual funerals. (Tippy, 2002)
In the recent past, memorialisation is largely practised via granite, marble or bronze memorials in
cemeteries, requiring physical visits that can be impeded by distance or physical ability. In a society
that is increasingly fragmented – where families and friends, often separated by significant distances,
cannot actively participate in memorialising their deceased – an alternate space to the physical needs
to be provided.
Several authors claim this alternate space is cyberspace. I therefore ask: how and why do memorials
exist there? Is there a link between physical and online memorialisation? What kind of
memorialisation space is emerging online? To consider these questions, this paper presents findings
from an investigation of online memorialisation. Firstly, a unique model was created based on an
analysis of the work of several authors, using their definitions of memorialisation and their
discussions of the motivations and characteristics of traditional memorial practices. The resulting
Memorial Attribute Model was then used to understand how the Web is being used as a
memorialisation space. Why memorialisation may have been adopted online is then considered. In
addition, I outline possible links between the remembrance of the dead in the physical space and
online. Finally, the Web is explored as a collective memorial landscape.
Memorilisation Practice
Memorialisation as a death ritual has been practiced as early as 35,000 BC. An evolutionary analysis
of physical memorial form by Hallam and Hockey (2001) suggests that in recent times memorials are
increasingly used by the living to maintain a role with the deceased. Before the eleventh century in
England, memorials were only erected for those of wealth and means. However the eleventh century
was also a turning point for everyday society, in that the graves of the ‘ordinary’ were recovered from
anonymity in a desire to commemorate everyday people. Three centuries later, memorials contained
items such as name, date of death, words of praise, profession (and indirectly, rank and status), and
prayers to God for the soul. Later, text linking family members to the deceased was included and, by
the seventeenth century, biographical accounts featured, therefore making the memorial as real as
possible to the deceased and the living.
As a form of meaningful and personal communication, memorialisation helps those who experience
the death of a loved one to fight through the stages of the grieving process, providing a means to
express deeply felt emotion and to honour the deceased. Memorials provide a permanent place for
those left behind to connect emotionally and spiritually with their loss. They also provide an
opportunity to honour and pay tribute to a person and make a statement about the impact that person
had on his or her family, community, or even the world. Moreover, Ruby (1995) explains that
mourners are confronted by two very contradictory needs when someone dies: to keep the memory of
the deceased alive, and, at the same time, accept the reality of death and loss. Therefore as Salisbury
(2002) suggests, the act of erecting some kind of memorial to the deceased is perhaps one of the most
important aspects of the grieving process.
So what can cyberspace offer memorialisation? Cyberspace lacks physicality but, as Wertheim (1999)
contends, cyberspace can be a spiritual space. Several authors agree this notion extends to
memorialisation practice. Hallam & Hockey note the Internet offers the ability to memorialise in a
public place, where anyone can visit at any time, without imposition to others, and without
interruption to themselves. They continue:
The deceased can always be provided with a here and a now [with the Internet],
something which is increasingly evident in the appropriation of public space for private
grief, at times of … traumatic loss. (61)
Whilst Wertheim claims therapy is a quintessentially lonely experience, the author also suggests
people crave something communal; something that will link their minds to others. As a result, while
working ‘on one’s own personal demons, … many people seem to want a collective mental arena, a
space they might share[, and I suggest, also grieve,] with other minds’ (233).
Evidence of cyberspace as Wertheim’s ‘collective mental arena’ is certainly well documented in such
areas as self-help, e-therapy or cyber-therapy, and psychoanalysis (see Bacon; Condon, and Fernsler,
2000; Derrington, 1999; Hsiung, 2002; Zaleski, 2000). Equally, academics have proven the Web can
be specifically used for the practise of memorialisation. Geser’s (1998) early work suggests the Web ‘
may enlarge the scope of cultural expression to new spheres of thoughts and emotions, hitherto hidden
in the privacy of individual minds or informal interpersonal relations’, thus providing a more enriched
environment in which to memorialise the dead. The impulse to create some form of memorial to the
dead seems to be nearly universal across all cultures to Marshall (2000), who indicates he is not
surprised Web sites as online memorials ‘have sprung into existence’. Finally, in his proposal for
studying the Israeli culture of mourning and memorialisation on the Internet, Sade-Beck (2003: 9)
says ‘the Internet is a new tool for the direct expression of emotions’. He continues, ‘the Internet
facilitates the expression of emotions through on-site memorialization’ (3).
So as cyberspace seems conducive to memorialising the deceased, how has the practice actually
manifested online? This question brings me to the first task of this paper – using a model of memorial
motivations and characteristics to investigate how memorials exist in cyberspace. A number of
principles were utilised to create a unique method, the Memorial Attribute Model: firstly, an analysis
of memorial definitions from several authors (see Davies, 1994; Friedman and James, 2002; Ruby,
1995; Salisbury, 2002); secondly, an analysis of the stages of the grieving processes in foundation
works such as Van Gennep (1960) and Kübler-Ross (1969); and finally, the model incorporates a
consideration of the aforementioned specific works of Geser, Marshall, and Sade-Beck. As a result,
the Memorial Attribute Model consists of a list of memorial motivations and characteristics, creating
two hypotheses relating to how memorials exist in cyberspace:
1. Memorials manifest online as a result of one or more of four motivations: grief,
bereavement and loss; unfinished business; living social presence; and/or historical
2. Online Memorials adhere to one or more memorial characteristics: invoking
remembrance; a demonstrable array of kinships; and/or as a surrogate for the deceased.
Each motivation and characteristic was applied to random Web sites claiming to be memorials, found
through’s Search Engine and using a set of identified search terms. [1] Memorial
“gateways” (Web sites providing portal-like access to a number of related Web sites) were also
utilised to find memorial content. In exploring each feature of the Memorial Attribute Model,
references to memorials in the physical world, the Web’s predecessor in this field, are incorporated
for illustrative and comparison purposes.
How Memorialisation Manifests Online
Memorial Motivations
From my brief analysis of the works of Van Gennep and Kübler-Ross, I observe in the first instance
that coping with grief and loss is perhaps the main impetus for memorials online. Certainly,
memorialisation ‘helps the bereaved to recover from their grief by providing a pleasant ‘memory
picture’’ (Metcalf and Huntington, 1991: 54) to reflect on, and can allow others to express their
sympathy and consolation through active participation in the grieving process. In comparison, Hallam
& Hockey present condolence cards and funerary wreaths as examples of this participation in the
physical world, both of which can be kept for future reference as shared moments of intense grieving.
Online, memorials created in times of grief and bereavement are found through examples of online
memorial text. Just as Kübler-Ross explains the five stages of grief, Web sites found during my
investigation adhere to one or more of these stages, supporting their usage as self-help throughout the
grieving process.
Expressions of denial are found on many websites, symbolised by phrases such as ‘I still can’t believe
you’re gone’ (A. Tracy, n.d.; Woznick, n.d.) or:
It’s so very hard to accept your death; and sometimes I think that you’ll just walk through
the door like nothing has happened. (‘Memorial for Lucy Morrison’, 2001)
I still wait for you to call me, I think of something I want to ask you or something I can’t
wait to tell you about … then I remember that you’re gone. (C. A. Tracy, 2002)
Anger too is found, as the living articulate resentment for their loved one being taken from them or
not being there with them. The word “why” is often an indicator of this stage:
Sometimes I would like to just scream at the top of my lungs until God gets tired of
hearing me and sends you back. (‘Memorial for Lucy Morrison’, 2001)
Why did you leave me all alone in this world? What am I going to do now? (‘Memorial
for ZAKEY KALID’, 2000)
I think of you everyday. You are such a bastard to deny us. You are such a bastard. God
how I miss you. (‘Memorial for Trent James Hayward’, 2002)
Additionally, idioms such as “I would do anything” feature as messages on memorial texts in the
bargaining stage of grief and bereavement, and the bereaved also write about how their life cannot go
on after the death event. And finally, in the last stage of acceptance, acknowledgements that the
deceased is not coming back are typical:
…and now I … understand that you’re not coming back… ever (Johnson, n.d.)
Secondly, Kübler-Ross notes within some communities, those who care about [the deceased] may
need help in completing unfinished business. Kuenning (1987) agrees that a sudden death may leave
the survivor with many regrets, a sense of unfinished business, and no time for an orderly farewell.
Memorialisation can therefore be an outlet for those with unfinished business with the deceased to
action toward completing it. Items such as personalised epitaphs, written letters placed grave-side or
journals created to work through the unresolved issues, are active and physical displays of this
memorialisation motivation. Similarly, in his content categorisation of the Virtual Memorial Garden,
Marshall uncovers that most memorials were either light or dark in tone. Light toned memorials were
often joyful dialogues about the deceased, whereas dark toned memorials were ‘often apologies,
regrets and even confessions’.
The tone of the memorial is especially important when we consider unfinished business as memorial
content. Online confessions of unrequited love, last word regrets, and missed opportunities for
meeting the deceased are often found, for instance, in the following examples:
Never got to actually say I love you. Well, I love you, Or got to say good-bye, but I will
say, see you later! (Esford, n.d.)
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. We said a lot of words, you and I. I would
love the opportunity to take a lot of them back. My greatest regret is that the last words I
ever said to you was that I never wanted to see you again. (Memorial for DebraAnn, n.d.)
Even in the case of chosen abortions, mothers post their regrets in memoriam to their unborn babies,
as an example of which allowing an anonymous cleansing:
Oh God, please help me extinguish the pain and the sorrow of what I have done. (Campo,
The tone of the memorial is also important when we consider that memorials have regularly been used
as opportunities for conversations with the dead. In their personalised epitaphs and grave-side letters,
the living speak to the dead as if they were still alive, as the memorials become a “living” social
presence for the deceased. Epitaphs are written as personal, lasting messages, and as I have already
mentioned, as an outlet for those with unfinished business with the deceased. Hamilton (1999) cites
Sturken’s 1998 example of a conversation with the dead, in the form of a letter at the base of the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington D.C.:
Dear Michael: Your name is here but your (sic) are not. I made a rubbing of it, thinking
that if I rubbed hard enough, I would rub your name off the wall and you would come
back to me. I miss you so.
In this way, the living are conversing with the dead as if they were still alive, in the form of a letter as
demonstrated by the “Dear Michael” start to the item. On the Web, the living demonstrate similar
behaviour via interactive functionality, such as online diary entries, message boards and guest books.
The online memorial created for a young lady who died in 1997 serves as an example (see ‘Amanda
Joy Alstatt, March 15, 1981 — June 05, 1997’, n.d.), to which her father and brother often leave
messages on her memorial message board. Their messages are conversational in nature, as they “talk”
to her about family news and the day to day goings on in their lives:
Amanda. Yea, it is me Daddy.. I know you know about the new and wonderful news.
Pretty awesome Huh! That is it for now! …
Hi Amanda its me Matthew, I started highschool (sic) on August 11th. Im (sic) now in
9th grade and im 14 …
It is me!. So much to say, but not enough room or time, right here, right now.
Aside from mourning, grief and bereavement, memorialisation can occur on grounds of historical
significance, the model’s final memorialisation motivation. The maintenance of the past as a living
memory is of essential importance in the life of a group and individuals. Knowing about origins, past
achievements, and mistakes, allows us to understand ourselves as links in the chain of generations
(Von Eckartsberg, 1988). In this way, the concept of deliberate memorialisation (see Cosslett, 2002;
Searl, 2000) lends itself to historical motives, that is, dedicating a special place to the memory of
someone and, in turn, strengthening the fragile bonds of memory that link the generations. This type
of memorialisation can occur immediately after a death, though as Cosslett suggests, it often involves
‘deliberate attempts to recapture lost memory’ (252), years beyond when the actual person died.
When we look to the Web for evidence, the use of cyberspace as a method to preserve history and
memory is not a new concept. Millard Fillmore, thirteenth president of the United States and a man
born over two hundred years ago, is memorialised all over the Web from a historical perspective.
Details about his personal life and political accomplishments are chronicled on The Whitehouse Web
site [], and online reference works such as
Encyclopedia America [] and The Presidents of
the United States [] include biographic information about
his family and non-political life experiences. These memorials are not avenues for grief or
bereavement. Rather, they are Web sites published for historical significance, as public and social
reminders of the achievements and sacrifices of those in public service.
The Web is also used to memorialise everyday people from history. In the case of the historical
section of The Officer Down Memorial Page [], memorials serve as reminders
of the everyday risks facing law-enforcement officers, by establishing a sense of past in the duties still
completed today. Consider Deputy Keeper James B. Lippincott (The Officer Down Memorial Page
Inc, 2003), who was killed by gunfire Friday, March 2, 1894. He has been memorialised online since
2003, despite his death occurring nearly 110 years ago.
In summary, and while they are not proven to be exhaustive, online memorialisations are found to be
created as a consequence of one or more motivations; grief, bereavement and loss; unfinished
business; living social presence; and/or historical significance. To further investigate how
memorialisation exists on the Web, I represent the second hypothesis of the Memorial Attribute
Model, in terms of investigating three physical memorial characteristics in cyberspace.
Memorial Characteristics
In the first instance, from my analysis of the work of Van Gennep and Kübler-Ross, a memorial
should be a catalyst for invoking memory and remembrance, due to its past or present proximity to the
deceased. Property that used to belong to the deceased may invoke memories of them. The very act of
visiting a grave places the deceased immediately into the memory of the visitor, due to the proximity
of the deceased to the memorial. Though what of the Internet? What of a space that lacks physicality?
Similar to photo albums depicting the life of the deceased at funerals, I find online memorials
mitigating their lack of proximity to the deceased by providing a vast array of textual and visual
remembrances. A montage of photos, sounds, and video reflects the personal values of the deceased,
and hence bring into play perhaps more remembrance than a static physical memorial. Ruby suggests
visual remembrances such as picture making can replace human memory, becoming the primary
means by which twentieth-century Western humanity remembers.
Every memorial Web site I visited contained at least one picture of the deceased, though many also
included photos of family, and images depicting the deceased in a positive light, allowing family and
friends to relive their experiences and reflect. MIDI and WAV files play songs favoured by the
deceased when memorial pages open in the browser, and visitors are given the opportunity to view
home videos of the person, uploaded by family and friends from personal video cameras. Similarly,
technology has also enabled an ever-lasting reminder of the exact time the person died, beyond the
static death date on most physical memorials. Using time-counters to display the exact time elapsed
since the event of their death, a link between the virtual and physical space occurs, complete with
second-by-second adjustments as life in the physical space continues. For example:
1653 days, 14 hours, 28 minutes, and 12 seconds have passed since Robbie went to
heaven. (‘Robbie Smith Memorial’, n.d.)
Perhaps the most significant memorial characteristic is that memorials are generally surrogates for the
dead. Certainly in previous research (Veale, 2003), headstones are found as representations, markers
or substitutes for the dead, containing one or more descriptors as information about the deceased. In
this way, as Salisbury cites Matthew Berry’s 1992 thesis, ‘the individual grave or memorial …
provides a focal point or acts as a substitute for the deceased, allowing the bereaved to maintain a role
with the person’ (18). These surrogate descriptors, or inscriptions in the context of general
memorialisation, are often crucial in establishing relationships between the memory object and the
subject to be remembered. In any case, I suggest surrogate form, content and context has a profound
effect upon the ways in which a memorial works as a surrogate.
Equally, on the Web, memorials are being turned to as ever increasing surrogates for all manner of
deceased persons; famous or not., a commercial provider of online memorial
packages, lists several items that should contribute to the content of a memorial, to accurately reflect
the deceased. They include: names; dates and places of birth and death; final resting place and cause
of death; a biography or eulogy of the deceased; physical characteristics such as height, eye and hair
colour; a list of family members; favourite activities; hobbies; occupation; accreditations; education;
and organisational affiliations. These items aid in creating an accurate life reflection of the deceased,
creating a virtual surrogate for them.
Examples of memorials as surrogates for the deceased abound on the Web, and the presence of this
characteristic is perhaps the largest evidence of how memorialisation exists in that space. At a
minimum, memorial Web sites contain the name and/or photo of the deceased, along with their birth
and death date. However, Web sites are also found to contain biographies; some even chronicling the
deceased’s whole life from birth (see ‘Suzie Conaway-Cameron Memorial Website’, 2003), while
other memorials (see ‘The Holly Jones Memorial Website’, n.d.), describe specific events that paint
the person in a happy light, complete with favourite foods and music.
Continuing the concept of memorial as surrogate, outward displays of kinship are a generally a part of
traditional memorials. Horizontal and vertical relationships of lineage, generation and genealogy,
allow the living to share some identity or familial connection with the memorial, aiding also in
memory creation by describing the close personal networks and bonds of the deceased. In fact, as
Davies (1994: 35) describes, ‘memorials spell out the highly particular, familiar and familial
relationships with their dead interlocutor, in a way which retains the centrality of the ties between the
living or the dead’. Obituaries are often found to implicitly state the relationship of the bereaved and
(sometimes those already passed) to the deceased. Additionally, the living may state their relationship
to the deceased when erecting memorials such as headstones. And while memorials are generally
created by those who are related in some way to the deceased, those that are not related to them still
expend intentional effort to display a relationship. For instance, consider memorials created by the
leader or citizens of a country, for whom soldiers have fallen in war, or the fan of an entertainer who
has since passed.
In a time where privacy laws and identity protection are paramount, I expected this particular
memorial characteristic to be invisible on the Web and thus be specifically inferior to physical
memorials. demonstrable kinships on online memorials however are similar, if not superior, to
traditional memorials in this instance, due the increased space available for memorial text. They are
also similar in that they contain a mix of detailed kinships. For example, in terms of specifically
named relationships:
He was the fourth child and third son of Samuel L. Diggle and Marie Louise Cobb.
(‘Perpetual Memorials Website for Robert Bernard Diggle (1914-1993)’, n.d.)
We mourn the loss of our 16 year-old son, Michael. (‘Michael Swickey, Jr. Memorial
Tribute’, n.d.)
… and generalised kinships:
This page is dedicated to the memories of my beautiful granddaughter. (‘Alexis Brianne
Stempien’, n.d.)
On February 25, 2001, my beautiful little girl got hurt. (‘Memorial’, 2004)
In the same way, some online memorials (see ‘Edward Herbert Dube’, 2002) contain links to the
memorials of other deceased family members on the Web, thereby stating familial relationships in the
form of hyperlinks.
To summarise the above findings, websites are found to portray one or more of the Memorial
Attribute Model’s three characteristics; remembrance; a demonstrable array of kinships; and/or as a
surrogate for the deceased. These findings however, in addition to the aforementioned five memorial
motivations, raise additional questions. Why is cyberspace used for memorialisation? Are there links
between the physical and virtual space? Does the existence of online memorialisation change
traditional memorialisation practice? The following section of this paper attempts to explore these
Why Memorialisation Manifests Online
In a world where physical memorials can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars (see Ryle, 2002),
require physical attendance, and are subject to degradation and desecration, the Web can be
considered an additional or alternate space to memorialise the dead. To explain, I propose timeliness,
cost, accessibility, and creativity as advantages of memorialising online.
Perhaps the most prevailing advantage of cyberspace for memorialisation is that the Internet, as a
space, allows quick if not instant content creation, unlimited editing and updating, and a lifespan that
is not subject to the degradation of the physical world. [2] Unlike physical memorials, which are
erected at one point of time and generally remain unchanged, the interactive and communicative
nature of the Internet allows online content be amended and added to, in subsequent periods of
After the initial creation of an online memorial during times of grief and bereavement, additional
reflection and content is often added to create an enduring and expanding space for the deceased. For
example, a memorial to SIDS infant Jordan Joseph Miller (see Miller, n.d.) contains messages
authored on the anniversary of his death, over some four years since he died in 1994. Equally, the
online memorial of Gregory Ott (see Ott, 2002), assisted not only in the periods of initial grief and
bereavement (as characterised on the main page), several other pages were added to the site in
subsequent years, again on the anniversary of his death. In the same way, the mother of “Kenny”
continually uses his memorial site (see ‘A Memorial to Kenny’, n.d.) on the anniversary of his
birthday, to reflect and ‘speak’ to him as she works through her enduring grief.
Moreover, online memorial websites are also found to be dynamic and continuing works in progress,
creating full-featured creative works. Olaf Karthaus (2001) spent the last three years building the
memorial website, The Daniel Project for his son Daniel, who died in 2000 from a congenital heart
disease. The ‘Daniel’s Story’ section of the website is a number of chapters commemorating his short
life, with the first chapter uploaded in November 2000 (three months after his death) and the last in
January 2003. All sections and indeed the site are continually being updated, making ‘Daniel’s life,
his struggles, and most importantly, the joy he gave [his parents], public’.
Not only are memorials fluctuating and adaptive online, they are also a timely intermediary until a
physical memorial is erected. As one bereaved person said in response to the World Trade Centre site
becoming inaccessible after the September 11 terrorist attacks: ‘What are we supposed to do between
now and when the actual physical memorial is there?’(Frangos, 2004). I contend that cyberspace
allows memorial websites to be created more quickly than physical memorials, an assertion supported
by the research of the PEW Internet and American Life project. PEW Internet (2002: 21) found in the
time after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the USA:
… more than four in ten Web sites [archived between September 11, 2001 and December
1, 2001] allowed visitors not only to view others’ expression[s about the attacks], but also
to post their own reactions and perspectives about the terrorist attacks, [in addition] to
communal expressions of grief and mourning.
Thus within three months of the terrorist attacks, a large number of Web sites were erected as online
memorials. Thus in times quicker than physical memorials could be erected, the Web was utilised to
quickly and easily create memorialisation spaces. Similarly, online memorials do not cost as much as
the physical to erect. As Putzel (2002) says:
Unlike real estate or physical memorials that tend to increase in price with inflation, the
cost of erecting and preserving online memorials has declined dramatically as technology
prices have plunged in recent years.
Furthermore, perhaps in part to the aforesaid time and cost considerations and the increasing number
of people accessing to the Internet, the Web as a memorialisation space is also more open and
available to a diverse group of people than physical memorials. For instance, the Internet removes the
geographic difficulties evident in accessing physical memorials. As Marshall explains, online
‘memorials are often created by people unable to attend funerals [and] who live far away from the
burial place’.
As a result, funerary web-casting has become popular online, as a way to participate in
memorialisation practice virtually. Made available via Internet technology, funerary web-casting
enables a funeral service to be watched live through the use of Webcams, or at a later date from a
recording of the service. They are often supplementary material to online memorial Web sites, as
downloadable files in an online archive of the memorial service. In fact, Karen Kasel made a funeral
Web-cast available for the family of her deceased mother, because:
It cost[s] money to drop everything and come to a funeral. It’s difficult in this day and
age of everyone living so far away. I think it’s just wonderful that [the family] were
seeing this. You get the feel of the whole service. (Ordonez, 2002)
phenomenon [and is] … not subject to the laws of physics’, it is not surprising that the bereaved can
view, interact and experience online memorials in their own time, without having to conform to
opening dates and times. I also suggest this lack of physicality also allows memorialisation to be
practiced in ways more private than at public, physical memorials. Furthermore, the ability to mask
identities and remain anonymous on the Web allows those who had inappropriate or secret
relationships with the deceased to work through their grief and memorialise those of their choosing.
The Web as a medium for memorialisation facilitates not only writing as a part of the grieving
process, but also the immediate sharing of these texts internationally. Marshall certainly agrees, in
that the ‘relief that people have found through the simple act of writing a memorial text’ may be
multiplied infinitely by the knowledge of the words being disseminated around the world in a matter
of seconds. In support of this claim, the following quotation from Frank Yanoti (n.d.) displays how an
online memorial addresses the need to share the loss of a person for and with many diverse people:
A memorial website may seem like a strange idea, but there has been nothing normal
about the past few weeks. I needed a way to get out this information and I (we all) needed
to do something, anything. I put this up quickly to aid those traveling from out of town,
but I’d like to offer it to all of Alison and Adam’s many, many family and friends as a
small way for us to share our memories of Alison and to try to console each other. I will
add a guest book shortly and I ask that anyone who has any pictures, stories, or other
things to share please send them my way. It’s a tragedy; there is no other word. We have
only our memories and each other.
We must consider however the possibility that physical memorialisation is superior to the online,
because of the proximity of the memorial to the deceased. That is, online memorials may not seem
“real” to the bereaved, who may believe that their loved one is where the physical remains are
located. Though, just as graves and static memorials can evoke memory through limited content and
proximity to the deceased, I find the interactive nature of online memorials require less and less
memory and imagination of the living. Consequently, photo’s, text, video, and sights and sounds
make for an emotion-charging experience for the bereaved and indeed any visitor to an online
memorial, allowing the memories to be created for them, and perhaps mitigating the issues
surrounding lack of proximity to the deceased.
Timeliness, cost, accessibility and creativity are not the only advantages of online memorialisation
however. The Web is also a favourable medium for preserving existing physical memorials from
degradation and desecration. Physical cemeteries are fast becoming areas of disrepair, and
preservationists are working to transfer the information in these places to electronic repositories –
such as databases and virtual cemeteries – thus preserving historical memory. The digitisation of
historical books and texts are the subject of many working papers, to ensure these valuable though
fragile items are not lost to the damage inflicted by time. Historical memorialisation can also be seen
in terms of preservation, as much as it is about safeguarding memory. Online memorials in this regard
are found to be largely genealogical in nature, though there is also a large proportion found for
historical persons of socially ‘higher-profiles” than everyday people, such as political, entertainment
and social arenas. As a hobby, genealogy is a way for the present to search for their roots and
memorialise those that walked the earth before them – the people that contributed ancestrally to the
person they are today. The increase in genealogical family tree publishing on the Web immortalises
the distinct relationships between different branches of one’s ancestry and extended family history.
Finally, although I have been considering the Web as an additional or alternate space to memorialise
the dead, are physical and online memorialisation distinct and disparate rituals? Or are they utilised in
collaboration to enhance memorialisation practice? In fact, physical space and cyberspace work in
symbiosis on many occasions.
At the very least, the Web provides mention or access to memorials located in the physical world. For
example, the Millard Fillmore House Web site []
incorporates a virtual tour of the house in which he lived in Buffalo, New York, in addition to pictures
of his grave and statues in New York State. Other Web sites also lessen the physical requirement of
travelling to visit memorials, such as the many Web sites covering the Vietnam Veterans War
Memorial. Online projects such as the Australian War Memorial [] and
Thomas Jefferson Memorial [] can both be considered online
memorials in their own right, taking into consideration the Memorial Attribute Model, though they are
actually representations of the physical memorial. Photos of physical memorials such as headstones
are featured on Web sites such as the Carol Lambert Memorial []
and the JC Caffro Memorial []. Additionally, The Crazy Horse Memorial Website
[] offers visitors a real-time Webcam of the physical memorial.
Similarly, there is evidence of cyberspace providing an additional dimension to memorials in the
physical space. URL’s are found on headstones, linking the monument to an interactive Web site
about the deceased, though in some cases they have been considered advertising rather than a way to
provide a cohesive memorial for the deceased (see ‘Son ordered to remove web address from
mother’s grave’, 2001). In other cases, such as The Virtual Wall [], an
online memorial enhances the physical memorial, allowing personal remembrances of letters,
photographs, poetry, and citations to be recorded online, honouring those women and men named on
the actual physical memorial.
Finally, although not yet connected to the Internet, web technology is fast becoming a part of physical
memorial practice. The Charon Touch Screen ‘integrates with Charon Electronic Memorials to
display the family’s choice of reflections [in Web technology, at a kiosk at the physical cemetery:]
poems, photographs, tributes, memories, and full multimedia presentations related to the deceased’
are available. Similarly, ‘Brent and Tyler Cassity provide visual eulogies via touch screen biographies
on a kiosk in their cemeteries. They feel the deceased should be the primary focus of a cemetery visit,
not some cold memorial stone’ (Ramsland, 2002).
Concisely, cyberspace, and specifically the Web, provides numerous advantages to traditional
(physical) memorialisation practice, in terms of timeliness, cost, accessibility, and a broader spectrum
of creativity. There is also evidence to support the use of Web technology within physical memorial
practice, and certainly of physical memorials either being represented or enhanced online. Though
with the ebb and flow of millions of memorials online, what type of space is emerging there?
The Internet as a Collective Memorial Landscape
I find many people engaging in the participatory construction of memories on the Web, simply by
creating their own heterogeneous messages of loss, bereavement and remembrance in online
memorials. However, when individual memorials are considered together, possibly as Wertheim’s
‘collective mental arena’, I propose that we can describe the Web as a “collective memorial
landscape”. Furthermore, specific navigation aids that spatially link individual memorials on the Web
create a further dimension, in the form of online memorialisation sub-landscapes.
Kluitenberg (1999) states the memory of a culture or society is located principally in memory objects
that hold traces of the past; a way in which material objects, events, documents and descriptions are
linked together into a coherent narration of past and present. The Web, I therefore suggest, derives its
significance as a broad and collective memorial landscape through demonstrated and globally
accessible acts of cultural memory, in the form of online memorials. To explain, and as Kushner
(1999) describes, physical memorial landscapes such as cemeteries intentionally create memory in
two ways:
… one as places where individuals could remember their loved ones; the other as sacred
national ground in which citizens of nation and city – in either case, members of the
public – could see their public identity reflected in the memory of the public from years
Thus in considering the evidence in this paper, the Web can be considered a memorial landscape.
Web sites and Web pages appear as Kushner’s “places” for people to visit, capable of invoking
remembrance for the deceased. And while cyberspace is considered as a distinct “place” or “space” by
Wertheim and an extension of our mental space by Anders (2001), the Web reflects public identity
and memory through the diverse practice of online memorialisation. Though that is not to say the
Web is a singular level landscape. Delving below the memorials found on the Web uncovers sub-
landscapes of implicit links between one individual-specific memorial to another, creating a global
network or “collective” of memorial content for the deceased. Additionally, the use of Web rings and
memorial collation or portal Web sites create memorial sub-landscapes, based on the type of death or
grieving object, or even a tragic event.
Hypertextual linking of Web sites could at first glance be considered in Columbs’ (2002: 44) terms, as
merely ‘documents … related to each other’. However, within the context of an online memorial for
one person being linked to other online memorial content for that same person, I find online cultural
memory a central theme, bridged across the perspectives of many authors. For example, the Angel
Alex Web site [], a memorial site to a stillborn baby, is in
itself an act of online memorialisation, though it also contains hyperlinks to other online memorials
about the child, broadening the specific narration and memory invocation about him. Another online
memorial simply asks the visitor, ‘for other expressions of love and memories about Kevin, you can
visit the following links’ (‘interest.htm’, n.d.). On the other hand, navigation tools such as Web rings
create sub-landscapes of online memorialisation, based on commonalities of bereavement.
For instance, thousands of pet-related memorial Web rings exist on the Web, creating a communal
grieving sub-landscape for deceased animal companions. The Hoofbeats in Heaven Web ring
[], according to the authors, ‘creates a safe haven of
support for members and visitors alike who have, or will be, experiencing the loss of their cherished
horse’. Likewise, in times of tragic events and especially the current climate of worldwide terrorist
activities, people can go from Web site to Web site within Web rings such as American Tragedy
[], to ‘witness for themselves how Americans are
sticking together during … trying days’ of loss. Moreover, the type of death also features as an
attribute for the creation of collective memorial sub-landscapes. The Our Angels On Earth, Now Our
Angels In Heaven Web ring [] allows people to
traverse online memorials about the loss of a child.
Briefly, while Web sites belonging to Web rings are individual memorials representing past or present
losses, linking them together based on contextual similarities creates sub-landscapes within a broader
online memorial landscape. Equally, individual-focussed sub-landscapes are created by hyperlinks
between memorials about the same person. All in all, online memorials are linked together on the
Web, either directly through navigation structures, or conceptually when considering their locality in
cyberspace, into a coherent narration of past and present, identified as a collective memorial
Using the Memorial Attribute Model, the paper has presented online memorialisation as practiced by
and for family, friends, pets and famous people; for those dying in the present; and for others who
may have died some several hundred years ago. I have confirmed online memorials are generally
created through one or more of four motivations: grief, bereavement and loss; unfinished business;
living social presence; and/or historical significance. I also found online memorials containing one or
more of the model’s memorialisation characteristics; creating remembrance; a demonstrable array of
kinships; and/or as a surrogate for the deceased. While there are many links and collaborative efforts
between physical and virtual memorials, creating a holistic approach to memorialisation, cyberspace
has successfully improved upon memorialisation practices in areas such as timeliness, cost,
accessibility, creativity, and enabled the sharing of grief and bereavement on a global scale.
One of the most fascinating aspects of online memorialisation is the number of people utilising it in
their day to day activities, as demonstrated by volatility in the collective memorial landscape. Online
memorialisation is a highly flexible, adaptive practice, enabling everyday people to keep pace with
their subtle changes in thought and feeling toward the deceased, and sometimes with that of their
extended friends and families. Thus memorials are being created everyday, while existing ones are
removed, remodelled, or enhanced. In the long term, other means of keeping the memory of the
deceased alive will become available as the living strive to keep the memories of those they’ve lost
alive, perhaps in the form of digital immortality (see ‘From Memex to Digital Immortality’, 2002), or
three-dimensional, life-like avatars of the deceased, complete with a downloaded consciousness.
The Web currently allows cultural memory to be created and maintained across the broader Web, and
within sub-landscapes of links between memorials for one person, or contextual memorials based on
type of death, object of death, or event-based deaths. Thus, whatever the future hold, we use the term
collective memorial landscape to describe the current space emerging and evolving from online
memorialisation practise.
While this paper commenced stating that millions of people die per year and a majority of those in the
past were lost to anonymity, Internet technology is ensuring that every one of them and their
descendants roaming the earth today have the opportunity to be immortalised in some form. Their life
can be commemorated online, on the event of their death in the physical world, and remembered by
the general public via online memorials. In a society that is increasingly fragmented and where
families and friends, often separated by significant distances, cannot actively participate in physical
memorialisation, cyberspace is an available and effective space for memorialising the deceased.
Author’s Biography
Kylie Veale is a PhD Candidate in Media and Information (Internet Studies) at Curtin University of
Technology, Australia. She holds a postgraduate degree in Information Environments and a Master of
Internet Studies. She has published in international journals and edited books on subjects such as the
Internet gift economy, community-based online communication, and the intersection of genealogy
and the Internet. Her current research interests extend the latter, such as environments of use within
online communities, and the use of the Internet for leisure pursuits, paying specific attention to the
hobbyist genre of online genealogy. Her website and writings are available online:
[1] Search terms used were: Memorial, memorialisation, memorialising, tribute, ‘In Loving Memory
Of’, ‘To The Memory Of”
[2] This assertion assumes, of course, the management and financial responsibilities of the online
resource are covered and continued for the life of the online memorial.
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... Carroll and Landry (2010) suggest that "social networking platforms enable and empower those marginalized by traditional forms of grief to stay connected to the deceased" (p. 1130), forming in the process a 'collective memorial landscape' (Veale, 2004). As Pennington (2013) remarks: "The contemporary available technologies, together with platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, allow ordinary people to create their own digital narratives by writing, filming and publishing details of their lives. ...
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... Díky sociálním sítím probíhá komunikace se zesnulým v podstatě nepřetržitě i po jeho smrti (Sherlock, 2013, str (Gibson, 2015). Veale (2004) označuje dynamické spoluvytváření online ostatků po smrti uživatele pojmem collective memorial landscape, neboť, jak píše Acker a Blubacker (2014, str. 6) není daný vzniklý osobní archiv důležitý jen pro okruh nejbližších, ale je součástí určité kolektivní paměti, a to, jak si uživatelé pamatují minulost skrze interakci s dalšími uživateli. ...
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... Moreover, the death of a loved one is also a common trigger for an increased interest in online family history research as a means of creating a legacy (Neilson & Muise, 2016). With many families separated by geographical distance, online memorials offer an accessible alternative to a fixed, physical memorial as an outlet for emotional expression (Mitchell, Stephenson, Cadell, & Macdonald, 2012;Veale, 2004;Walter, Hourizi, Moncur, & Pitsillides, 2012). Even where traditional physical memorials such as gravesites are accessible, 76% of bereaved people reported more frequent visits to the online memorial space (Roberts, 2004). ...
Although considerable research efforts have focused on bereavement outcomes following loss, there are few studies which address the role of memorialization, particularly as it relates to formal service provision. Currently the funeral, cemetery, and crematorium industries are observing a steady decline in traditional and formal memorialization practices. This study aims to identify current memorialization practices and emerging trends, highlight key priorities for improving service outcomes for the bereaved, and understand the implications of changing consumer preferences for service provision. The study’s qualitative research design incorporates two phases, a scoping literature review followed by in-depth interviews with eight service providers from the funeral, cemetery, and crematorium industries. A key finding is that the trend toward contemporary and informal memorialization practices blurs the lines between the role of consumers and service providers. There is a clear opportunity for service providers to engage in community education as a means of building supportive relationships with and improving service outcomes for the bereaved.
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The first “Digital Death Day,” held on 20 May 2010, brought together world experts in the fields of death studies, social networking, and data management. Promoting the event, coordinator Jennifer Holmes commented, “The online memorial has already become the new grave” (Andrews 2010). How seriously should we take such a statement? Was this turn of phrase simply intended to indicate the increasing dependence on digital media for performing social rituals? Or has online memorialization in fact created a new kind of “resting place” for the deceased, and if so what is the nature of that place and how do the living relate to it? Whether through intentional online memorialization or through the unplanned bestowing of an afterlife on anyone who has had an active online presence in life, it is now indisputable that the digital world is being populated, at an exponentially growing rate, by the stories, images, traces, and voices of the dead—so much so that this digital afterlife can be seen as a new kind of immortality. Drawing upon several kinds of digital memorialization, this chapter considers the influence of these new forms—that create a perpetual “here and now” for the dead—on the way people experience and communicate grief and the implications, more broadly, for trauma theory.
This article is divided into two parts. In the first part, which was published in 2018, we presented arguments in support of the concept of posthumous interests. Posthumous interests are understood as events that constitute a benefit or a harm to the deceased person, who no longer exists. A right is the interest of a person, which is recognized and protected by law. In the second part, we examine the possibility of applying the theory of posthumous interests in the Polish legal system. We address the following issues: medical confidentiality, protection of medical data after the death of a patient, author’s moral rights, protection of the memory of the deceased, the law on orders and decorations, and the legal status of human corpses. The theoretical background for this article was the book by Daniel Sperling Posthumous Interest, in which the author outlined the problem in point from the perspective of the common law regime.
The concept of biographical space integrates the confluence of several contemporary autobiographical discursive genres related to personal experiences and to the public exposure of intimacy. This includes the most traditional - letters, diaries, memoirs and (auto) biographies – but also media and digital media, with a variety of uses and interactive practices. Mediated memories, diaries and lifelogs are instruments of self-formation, vehicles of connection, future memory and identity, allowing the creation of new subjectivities and multiple identities in the various situations of life, gaining a digital identity that will persist even after death. The purpose of this paper is to explore the discussion around biographical space and digital death in information literacy skills using the evidence of an ongoing study on Portuguese librarians’ memorial practices (2017-2018). A conceptual framework that interrelates information literacy skills with current biographical and digital death practices is presented.
This article proposes principles for the design of human-centered, anthropic cyberspaces. Starting with a brief examination of our cognitive use of space, it suggests that we address cyberspace as an extension of our mental space. The article proceeds to state 12 principles based on scientific and cultural observations regarding individual cognition and social interaction. These concepts are generalnot specific to any culture or technology. In the accom-panying arguments, the author expands on these concepts, illustrating them with examples taken from conventional and electronic media, space and cyberspace. With these conjectures, the author hopes to begin a discussion on the anthropology of space and its emulation.
The present research focuses on the Israeli culture of mourning and memorialization on the Internet. The research question is two-fold: Is the Internet rejuvenating memorial culture in Israel, and what characterizes the expression of such painful emotions such as grief and bereavement in a virtual environment in the Israeli context? The study is primarily based on an ethnographic study taking place through and on the Internet, examining the Israeli sites and the virtual support community for the mourning and bereaved. We shall be using three complementary qualitative research methodologies of data-gathering: on-line observations, interviews and content analysis of supplementary materials. The study's importance lies in its contribution to a deeper understanding of cyberspace as a research field. In addition, we are seeking to understand how emotions are expressed in on-line communication, as well as obtain a better understanding of the culture of mourning and memorials in Israeli society.
Drawing on the experience of running the Virtual Memorial Garden web site, this paper looks at some of the reasons why Internet memorials appeal to the thousands of people who have used the service it provides. Also touched on are the wider, social effects that this kind of use of the Internet may have in the future.
The Lion and the Unicorn 26.2 (2002) 243-253 In this article, I want to look at a group of English children's novels that features the "time-slip" device: that is, the protagonist slips back in time, characters from the past reappear in the present, or both. Books using this device seem to cluster in the 1960s and '70s—as can be seen from this (by no means exhaustive) chronological list: The list also reveals that there are much earlier antecedents for this genre at the beginning of the century, and that the device is still very much with us. Two of the runners-up for the 1999 Guardian Children's Book Prize, Kit's Wilderness and King of Shadows, are recent examples. The special importance of the genre in the postwar decades of the last century has been recognized by Humphrey Carpenter, who writes that a typical plot is "likely to concern one or two children who stumble across some feature of history or mythology which concerns their own family or the place where they are living or staying" (218; qtd. in Krips 52). Valerie Krips explains this preoccupation with "achieving an appropriate orientation to the present in terms of the past" (52) with reference to the British loss of Empire, and the nascent heritage industry, in an argument that ranges widely over many different types of children's literature. I am concerned here to pinpoint the special features of the time-slip genre, and to relate them very explicitly to ideas of heritage. At the same time, I want to argue that this genre provides ways out of some of the dilemmas and negative features of "heritage" as a concept and a practice. In many of its variants, the time-slip narrative offers an openness to "other" histories, rather than the potentially nationalistic search for roots; it problematizes the simple access to the past promised by the heritage site; it critiques empty reconstructions of the past; and because of the way it constructs childhood, it evades the dangers of nostalgia. The novels I am interested in deploy a series of overlapping motifs, which are repeated with variations—rather like folktale or fairy-tale motifs. Not all the novels feature all of them. They are: a deracinated child comes to stay in a new locality; a special place, often in conjunction with a special object, provides access to the past; an empathetic bond is formed with a child in the past; a connection is made between the past experience and the memory of someone still living; names, inscriptions and their decoding are important; the history that is accessed is the everyday life of an ordinary child; the subjectivity of the present-day child is an important element in the story; this child does some form of archival research to establish the truth of his or her experience of the past; the experience of the past becomes part of a theme of moving on, growing, accepting change, death and loss. The "genre" I am talking about overlaps with high fantasy and secondary world fiction, where the "past" the child accesses is wholly or partly fantastic. But here I am only interested in novels that introduce children to a past that is presented as "real" and everyday. While a supernatural element is sometimes present in order to effect the movement between past and present, some of the stories—Carrie's War, The Warden's Niece&#8212...
The chapters in this book reflects the different specialized functions that have evolved in e-therapy, including a presentation of the "Ask the Expert" Web site, the use of e-mail to support the treatment of anorexia nervosa, the development of a model community telepsychiatry program in rural Arizona, and the use of chat rooms for individual e-therapy. Other chapters present guiding clinical and ethical principles for e-therapists and discuss the legal implications. Finally, a personal account of e-therapy and reflections on its evolution are presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This revised edition of a cross-cultural study of rituals surrounding death has become a standard text in anthropology, sociology, and religion. Part of its fascination and success is that in understanding other people’s death rituals we are able to gain a better understanding of our own. Peter Metcalf and Richard Huntington refer to a wide variety of examples from different continents and epochs. They compare the great tombs of the Berawan of Borneo and the pyramids of Egypt, or the dramas of medieval French royal funerals and the burial alive of the Dinka "masters of the spear" in the Sudan, and other burials which at first sight seem to have little in common. Many of these cases are anthropological classics, and the authors use these examples partly in order to illustrate the many different ways in which anthropologists have tried to interpret these rites. A new introduction reviews theoretical developments in the anthropological study of death since the book first appeared in 1979.
Ever since the online world began, its inhabitants have puzzled over a fundamental question: What sort of space, exactly, is cyberspace? Is it just a metaphor, a vivid shorthand for the abstract complexity of computer networks? Or is it in some sense actually a space that parallels the one our bodies live in? Wertheim's impressively argued answer in The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet is that it is both, and more. Cyberspace, she claims, at once exposes and fulfills a long-time cultural yearning for the type of immaterial space, the realm of the soul, that was written out of the West's cosmological picture when science displaced medieval theology.
1. Finding empathetic support is an important factor in coping for people with various needs. 2. Support group resources may be limited due to long travel distances, expense of child care, lack of transportation, or no available group for specific needs. 3. Nurses can guide their patients to Internet support groups for self-care when traditional groups are not accessible or applicable to their circumstances.
Online Obituaries: The New Memorials
  • Michael Putzel
Putzel, Michael. 'Online Obituaries: The New Memorials', 21 March (2002),