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Digital Gravescapes: Digital Memorializing on Facebook

TitleDigital Gravescapes: Digital Memorializing on Facebook
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsChurch, S
JournalThe Information Society: An International Journal
Start Page184
KeywordsContemporary Religious Community, cyberspace, Death, digital media, digital memorials, discourse, eulogy, Facebook, gravescapes, memorializing, memorializing discourse, New Media and Society, new media engagement, New Technology and Society, online communication, Online community, religion, Religion and the Internet, religious engagement, rhetoric, social media, Sociology of religion, virtual community, virtual public sphere, “religion online”

I conduct a textual analysis of a digital memorial to understand the ways in which the digital sphere has disrupted or altered material and aesthetic displays of death and the associated genre of discourses surrounding death. I first use Morris's history of traditional gravescapes to situate digital memorials within their broader historical context. I then draw on the functional genre of eulogies, in particular Jamieson and Campbell's systematic description of eulogies, as a textual analytic to understand Facebook's unique memorializing discourse. My analysis suggests that the affordances of the Internet allow for a peculiar dynamic wherein the bereaved engage in communication with the deceased instead of with each other and yet strengthen the communal experience, as their personal communications are visible to the entire community. While the digital memorials lack the permanence of traditional gravescapes, the ongoing conversation they foster sublimates death into the process of communication.