Accepted Paper:

Digital afterlives: human remains in interactive formats  

Author:

Maja Petrović-Šteger (The Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts)

Paper short abstract:

The paper is an ethnographic exploration of the Mission Eternity Project and it illuminates contemporary conceptualisations of human remains in informational economies. It considers the question of what kind of knowledge can be routed through a digitised deceased.

Paper long abstract:

In her 2005 "Kinship, Law, and the Unexpected" Marilyn Strathern analyses Euro-American conceptualisation of human material in the context of ever increasing sophistication of biomedical technology, and its crossing with heightened notions of ownership. Revisiting this material, I observe that many Euro-American practices of recovering, retrieving or repiecing corpses tacitly rest on a conception of the dead body's integrity. The proposed paper aims to develop an anthropological understanding of the equation between the person and individual body (or collection of body parts) through an ethnographic consideration of the 'Mission Eternity Project', an artistic endeavour exploring intimations of immortality.

Launched by the Swiss art group etoy in 2005, the Mission Eternity Project was conferred with the VIDA Award 2007 for "on the one hand foregrounding the human longing somehow to survive after death, and on the other cultivating a sense of irony about the dated sci-fi fantasies people entertain in seeking to satisfy that desire" (excerpt from the VIDA jury statement). This paper specifically examines one of the artefacts created by the project - the Sarcophagus, a mobile sepulchre displaying composite portraits of those who consented to have their 'informational remnants' cross over into a digital afterlife. By enquiring into the compositional or repiecing effect of the objects and practices deployed by Mission Eternity Project practitioners, this reading illuminates contemporary conceptualisations of human remains in informational economies and considers the question of what kind of knowledge can be routed through a digitised deceased.

Panel W065
Routing knowledge through persons