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Identity, memory, death, and the internet

Dave Cormier offers an insightful (and touching) post on how identity and memory are preserved online. He compares the passing of a colleague (last year) and his brother (20 years ago) and how they are remembered today. The identity people create online today is, in a sense, a gift to their children and future generations. I know my grandparents through a few black and white pictures. As Cormier notes, his children/grandchildren will know him through rich media. Memories preserved in full colour. Too often, when discussing identity, the focus rests on “don’t post this online, you’ll regret it in the future when you’re [running for office, interviewing for a new job, etc.]“. The flip side of this argument is aptly expressed in Dave’s post.


  1. Jeremy wrote:

    It’s a great point. I thought of it a couple of weeks ago when I came across the music of Oliver Schroer, a wonderful Canadian violinist who died last summer. Exactly a year after his death, I was able to listen to his music, watch videos of his performances and read his blog — even getting a sense of the grace he chose to live with in his final months. I posted about it here:

    Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Geoff Cain wrote:

    I was talking to a nephew once about some funny stories about my paternal grandfather. He had no idea what I was talking about. I was really taken aback – these were stories that were told and retold by my uncles. I thought it was terrible that my nephew did not have that connection with the family and that the family had grown larger and increasingly spread out. He had never seen a picture of him either which was a shame because I think they look alike. Anyway, I was talking to a co-worker about this and he turned me on to It is a really interesting service – it is like socially networked viral genealogy. You create a profile and enter in email addresses to family members. They in turn create a profile and enter in email addresses to other family members. It was not to long before we had hundreds of people participating. I have a free account there and even with that, we have created a network that follows the Irish migration to North America. And I have met relatives that I didn’t know existed either!

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  3. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Geoff – I’ll have a look at Sounds like facebook :) .

    I agree with the experience of stories. Stories shared by family members have such a strong formative impact on how we think/act/learn. It is difficult to overstate the value of embedding memories and identities through narrative…

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink