Digital commemoration

Project overview

A grave yard in winter, with a bare tree in the background and short bright green grass between the lichen-covered graves.
Photo: Sean MacEntee, CC BY 2.0

The Internet is not just changing our social lives, it is also changing how we approach death and commemoration. Over the next three years, the Digital Commemoration project will explore these changes.

The ‘Digital Commemoration’ project brings together researchers from Anthropology, Human and Computer Interaction (HCI), Social Studies of Technology, and Media and Communications. The project will provide an extensive analysis of contemporary digital commemoration and a detailed account of the wider social and cultural implications of these practices. This research continues our previous work on digital memorialisation and the mediation of death online, which has been supported by research grants from the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

‘Digital Commemoration’ is a three-year interdisciplinary project funded by the Australian Research Council.

What is Digital Commemoration?

Digital commemorations first took the form of online memorials that appeared in the late 1990s when memorial websites were created and hosted by families and friends. Digital commemorations have since grown in popularity and diversified significantly.

They now include:

  • Tribute pages and memorials hosted on specialist memorial websites.
  • Blogs created to commemorate loved ones.
  • Repurposed and special purpose pages on social networking sites
  • Digitally mediated funerary practices.
  • Virtual world commemorations and ceremonies like funeral ceremonies in Second Life or memorials in World of Warcraft.
  • Solar-powered headstones containing recording devices, video display screens or QR barcodes to access further information about the deceased.
  • Groups organised through social media to commemorate the dead.
  • RIP-Troll flash-mobs who deliberately deface memorial sites, abuse the deceased, and insult mourners.

Project team

Project history

The chief investigators of this project have previously conducted collaborative research on issues surrounding death online.

The Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) funded the ‘Death, Grieving and Memorialization in a Broadband‐Enabled Society’ research project in 2010–2011.

A subsequent grant from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) in 2012 supported our research into consumer issues around planning and managing digital legacies. This research led to the publication of a final report and a website, which can assist consumers in planning their digital heritage.

Online resources

Digital Heritage: What happens to your digital assets after you die?

The Digital Beyond: Insight about your digital death and afterlife

Digital Dust: Death in the Digital Era & Life After Death on the Net: Digital, Virtual and Online Aspects of Current Death

Digital Death

Design for Death


Peer-reviewed publications

Meese, J., Nansen, B., Kohn, T., Arnold, M. & Gibbs, M. (2015) Posthumous personhood and the affordances of digital media, Mortality, 20 (4), 408-420, DOI: 10.1080/13576275.2015.1083724

Nansen, B., Arnold, M., Gibbs, M., and Kohn, T. (2015) The Stories of Zyzz - Distributed Memories on Distributed Networks, In Social Media and Social Memories: Remembering in Digitally Networked Times. Eds. Christine Lohmeier, Andrea Hajek and Christian Pentzold. Palgrave Macmillan.

Gibbs, M., Meese, J., Arnold, M., Nansen, B., & Carter, M. (2015). #Funeral and Instagram: death, social media, and platform vernacular. Information, Communication & Society, 18(3), 255-268.

Graham, C., Arnold, M., Kohn, T., & Gibbs, M. R. (2015). Gravesites and websites: a comparison of memorialisation. Visual Studies, 30(1), 37-53.

Meese, J., Gibbs, M., Carter, M., Arnold, M., Nansen, B., ; Kohn, T. (2015). Selfies at Funerals: Mourning and Presencing on Social Media Platforms. International Journal of Communication, 9, 14.

Nansen, B., Arnold, M., Gibbs, M., and Kohn, T. (2014) The Restless Dead in the Digital Cemetary, in Digital death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age. Eds. Christopher Moreman and David Lewis. Praeger.

Gibbs, M., Carter, M. & Mori, J. (2013) Vile Rat: Spontaneous Shrines in EVE Online (2013) Foundations of Digital Games Conference (FDG’13), 15 May, Chania, Greece.

Gibbs, M, Carter, M, Arnold, M and Nansen, B (2013) Serenity Now bombs a World of Warcraft funeral: Negotiating the Morality, Reality and Taste of Online Gaming Practices. Proceedings of Internet Research 14.0: The 14th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), 23–26 October 2013, Denver, USA.

Gibbs M, Bellamy C,Arnold M, Nansen B and Kohn T. (2013) Digital registers and estate planning. Retirement and Estate Planning Bulletin. 16 (3): 63-68.

Bellamy, C, Arnold, M, Gibbs, M, Kohn, T, Nansen, B (2013) Mediating the digital hereafter: life beyond the timeline. Prato Community informatics Research Network (CIRN) Conference Oct 28–30 2013, Monash Centre, Prato Italy.

Graham, C., Gibbs, M. and Aceti, L. (eds) (2013) The Information Society Special Issue: Death, Afterlife, and Immortality of Bodies and Data 29(3): 133–202.

Graham, C., Gibbs, M. and Aceti, L. (2013) Introduction to the Special Issue on the Death, Afterlife, and Immortality of Bodies and Data.  The Information Society: An International Journal.  29(3): 133–141.

Mori, J, Gibbs, M, Arnold, M, and Nansen, B. (2012) ‘Design Considerations for After Death: Comparing the Affordances of Three Online Platforms’. Proceedings of the 24th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference, Swinburne University, November 26–30. ACM Press, New York, p. 395–404.

Kohn, T., Gibbs, M., Arnold, M., and Nansen. B. (2012) ‘Facebook and the Other: Administering to and Caring for the Dead Online’, in Hage, G (ed), Responsibility, University of Melbourne Press, Parkville, Australia, pp 128–141.

Gibbs, M., Mori, M., Arnold, M. & Kohn, T. (2012). Tombstones, Uncanny Monuments and Epic Quests: Memorials in World of Warcraft. Game Studies 12(1):

Mori, J., Howard, S. and Gibbs, M. (2011). ‘Poets and Blacksmiths: Implications for Global Memorialization Using Digital Technology’. Interactions. 18(5): 48–54.

Rod, J., Graham, C. and Gibbs, M. (2011) Suicide Effects: Designing for Death. C&T2011: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Communities and Technologies. ACM Press, New York, NY, USA: 31–40.

Public reports

Bellamy, C, Arnold, M, Gibbs, M, Nansen, B, Kohn, T. (2013) Death and the Internet: Consumer issues for planning and managing digital legacies. Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), NSW. Available at

Contact details