Sharing Death: On the performativity of grief

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningfagfællebedømt

  • Kjetil Sandvik
  • Dorthe Refslund Christensen
Web 2.0 marks a social turn in digitally mediated communication and culture, placing the media user in the role as co-producer, innovator and participant.  The term covers a variety of interactive systems which facilitates the continuous storytelling process of constructing identity; systems allowing creating unique and editable profiles, adding personal content and sharing it with other people in your network(s) AND systems for publishing your own life: becoming visible to others, being connected and being observed.

More and more sites turn up on the Internet that facilitates the process of mourning for people who have lost loved ones (children, lovers, sisters, parents etc). In this paper we analyze one of these groups, the Danish mourning site, (Mindet means Memory). On this site participants perform their grief by designing memory sites for their loved one(s) displaying photographs, poetry, stories and expressions of grief and longing. They take part in expressions of empathy for others by lighting candles for other people's loved ones, they share their personal experiences in different chatrooms and the site offers services as a calendar displaying anniversaries, different guestbook facilities etc. With a departure point in the works of, among others, Castells and Lofland, we argue that online mourning groups reflects different stagings or ritualizations of grief that reflects different aspects or degrees of the private and/or public by including different agents, different social matrices and different levels of performativity.

In the 1990'ies ‘new media' was seen as something separate, a new and strange world, a ‘cyberspace' situated somewhere else and of a completely different character than what we - using a very problematic term - call ‘real life'. Today cyberspace and real life is rather part of the same continuum (Castells, Gotved), the online world is not a totally new social sphere with a totally different set of social rules and matrices but displays the same wide range of performative, social and communicative aspects as do the offline world.

That being said, at the same time, performing your grief online, apparently offers you a media and a technology that you are familiar with (computer, chatrooms etc) that gives you the opportunity to express grief within your own cultural and social spaces as opposed to offline mourning that are often kept in a language ad social spaces set aside from ordinary life. By enrolling yourself in this editable community you commit yourself to an ongoing communication with the dead and with other people about him or her.  And this continued dialogic practice accentuates the feeling of still being in close contact with the deceased
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - 2008
BegivenhedECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference "Communication Policies and Culture in Europe" - Barcelona, Spanien
Varighed: 25 nov. 200828 nov. 2008


KonferenceECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference "Communication Policies and Culture in Europe"

ID: 9725989