Digital demise : preservation of Facebook legacies post mortem

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2017-12-01

Authors

Guzman, Elizabeth Grace

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Abstract

Personal Information Management includes the practice of creating, maintaining, retrieving, and sharing information. In this report, I will evaluate personal information management in the context of the social media service Facebook to illustrate the importance of managing our digital identities. Most research on our growing dependence on digital institutions to preserve our digital assets focuses on how an individual can manage their digital assets to prevent fraud, create filing systems, and secure a legacy. This body of literature can help an individual curate, archive, and secure their information in life, but little research explores managing and preserving digital assets after an individual passes away. In this report, I will explore the role of Facebook in Personal Information Management, managing digital legacies post mortem, and the impact of our Facebook assets on death and grieving.

More than a quarter of the world's population uses Facebook to make connections, stay in touch with friends and relatives, and to create timelines of their digital histories (Facebook, 2017) User content on Facebook includes photos, the written word, and videos, and builds on a user's individual human experience. It has changed the way we interact both online and offline. Social media and changes in technology contribute to what some claim is a seismic shift in our culture and has significantly increased the content we produce and maintain. As information management processes shift from physical to digital, demanding different tools, it may be difficult for individuals and their loved ones to navigate new requirements to protect and access their information in life and post mortem.

The ubiquitous presence of smartphones and connected devices makes people feel connected wherever they go. It enables us to create and publish content anytime, and anywhere, often faster than traditional journalists. To consider the question of how we might think about our digital legacies post mortem looking at Facebook in particular, this report first considers challenges to such legacies, potential solutions offered by Facebook, and the importance of addressing these challenges and questions. The report concludes with a look at how a Facebook user's enduring presence online affects the grief process. The entwining of our online and offline experiences highlights the importance of thinking about our post mortem digital assets and the artifacts we leave behind after death. This report will address these issues and offer solutions and challenges to securing our post mortem digital legacies on Facebook.

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