Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mourning in Participatory Culture

Since I've been investigating my thesis topic on memorialization and port-mortem data storage and all things digital death-ness, I've wondered how virtual spaces designed to be participatory deal with mourning. In general, most of these spaces lock users out of participation (ie. Second Life memorials to the Virginia Tech shootings, 9/11; static html memorials, post-mortem MySpace/Facebook pages - all of which are usually maintained by one person or by a select group), but an interesting counter-example is the funeral in World of Warcraft that took place a little over a year ago. The funeral was meant for the avatar of person who died IRL, and was raided by a rival guild:

Skip to about 5 minutes for the raid

My question here is how can mourning, a very private, solemn and personal experience be shared, created and carried out in spaces that are for the most part out of the control of users? At the same time, how can we experience death - particularly mass-death or high profile deaths, which often effect large groups of people - in spaces which are built upon a participatory culture without bastardizing or harming that experience?

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