The 5 in 5 Blog Series

The Network is featuring the thoughts of our advisory board members on the top 5 resources they have found useful in their research in the last 5 years. Johanna Sumiala’s current research addresses cultural and social transformation of human death in contemporary society as it is characterized by digital saturation of the current collective social and cultural existence.

Sumiala’s present work focuses on today’s digital age and how people are starting to experience death via digital communication. She came to the conclusion that these circumstances have affected how people perceive death in several ways. The digital world transforms ideas, belief’s and conceptions of death in society, alters relationships between the living and the dead, and reconditions values and morals associated with human death. This, in turn, affects the institution’s structure, who manage and control death in society.

The 5 sources Johanna Sumiala presented elaborate on her topics in great sophistication and inspirational manner. The work of Bassett, Savin-Baden and Maso-Robbie explore the idea of digital afterlife and immortality. Lagerkvists’ edited volume opens up new important ways of thinking about digital existence as a fundamental condition of contemporary life. Moreman and his colleagues provide a rich approach to different death-related digital practices and their cultural interpretations. Finally, Walter is a seminal figure in sociology of death and his work expands contemporary ways of thinking about mourning in the current digitally saturated world.

Bassett, D. (2015). Who Wants to Live Forever? Living, Dying and Grieving in Our Digital Society. Social Sciences, (4)1, pp. 1127–1139.
The focus of this article is to argue for the clarity of communication technology used in death education and the need for further research into human and computer interaction.

Lagerkvist, A. ed. (2019). Digital Existence. Ontology, Ethics and Transcendence in Digital Culture. London: Routledge.
This book uses research into digital religion to broaden the scope of religion into a wider field to discuss existential media studies and how they affect the world.

Moreman, C. M. and Lewis, A. D. eds., (2014). Digital Death. Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age. Santa Barbara: Praeger.
This book explores death and how it is affected by digital technology through studies conducted to answer how people truly live their lives.

Savin-Baden, M., Mason-Robbie, V. eds. (2020). Digital Afterlife: Death Matters in a Digital Age. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
This book focuses on research into ways in which digital media helps with grief and remembering those who have passed. It also dives into The legal, ethical, and philosophical problems associated with Digital Afterlife

Walter, T. (2015). New Mourners, Old Mourners: Online Memorial Culture as A Chapter in The History of Mourning, New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 21(1-2), pp. 10–24.
This chapter compares mourners grieving online and the benefits that can be associated with usng social media as a tool to mourn versus those who save grieving for offline.