Accepted paper:

On hybrid memorials: materiality, digitality and death


David Kirk (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

Hybrid Memorials are artefacts and spaces, which bring together elements of the digital and physical in a memorialization context. Working through a number of examples, both realized and conceptual designs, this paper explores an emerging design space for new forms of memorialization.

Paper long abstract:

In various spheres of research, lifeworlds of the digital and the physical are posited almost as entirely separate entities. There is often a desire to treat the digital as a separate realm to the physical with its own concerns, practices and moral orders. In the study of practices of memorialization we have seen much work which does indeed hold these worlds as separate areas of interest, and yet with the rise of embedded technology, the internet-of-things and new forms of materiality (for example organic user interfaces) there are increasing opportunities to blend access to both digital and physical memorialized 'matter' in ways that create new forms of memorial artefact - which we might conceive of as 'hybrid memorials'. Herein, I would like to discuss some case examples of hybrid memorials, both realized and conceptual/speculative designs, which are beginning to unpack the potential of hybridized artefacts and spaces with regard to practices of memorialization in the digital age. The paper moves from the woods and mass graves of rural Slovenia, through digital maps of 'scattered ashes', to the reconceptualization of memorial architecture (memorial benches) and bespoke interventions, hybridized urns, for domestic spaces. In critically examining these cases the paper attempts to sketch out a design space for the development of new kinds of memorialized artefact, that work with the incarnate grieving and commemoration practices of people coming to terms with loss, whilst dealing with the potential digital residua of a life or lives.

panel P11
Death and technology