The Intl. Death Online Research Symposium is Shaping a Successful Digital Afterlife

Funeral Industry News July 26, 2018
digital death
Justin Crowe

Justin Crowe is the Founder and CEO at Parting Stone offering families a complete alternative to cremated remains that can be touched and held - no more “ash.” He is passionate about empowering families in their grief through meaningful experiences. Justin is co-host of the Deathcare Decoded podcast available here.

The Intl. Death Online Research Symposium is Shaping a Successful Digital Afterlife

Niche academic conferences explore seemingly useless or mundane topics that, according to the passionate attendees, have deep cultural implications with the potential to shape the fabric of our cultural development. I am a huge supporter of niche conferences and research symposiums because they take a magnified and highly-researched look at the seed of an idea before it hits the mainstream. By the time the idea reaches the masses we have a clear view of the paths forward and the implications of each decision made by the movers. This saves a ton of a headache and protects against potentially catastrophic missteps as a technology, philosophy, or consumer product popularizes.

A couple examples of these types of conferences include the Breaking Convention, which explores the contemporary research around the role of hallucinogens in modern medicine, and Slayage, which is an academic conference taking a close look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show which uniquely exposes mainstream views on feminism, identity, and gender stereotypes. Death is a shared human experience and has its own niche academic conference that is brilliantly informing the future of the death experience.

The 4th International Death Online Research Symposium (DORS4) is taking place at The University of Hull, UK, August 15 – 17, 2018. The event, which includes speakers from 13 countries, will explore the ways in which online connectivity is changing how, when, and where we engage with death and dying and how we invest death-related practices with meaning in the online environment.

We’ve covered prominent companies in the past who have already begun to consider our digital afterlife. Going Out In Style provides a service where they will delete your internet browser history upon the event of your death and Everplans will pass down personal letters or secret recipes to your surviving loved ones. There are also live-streaming funeral tools, like the one provided by FuneralOne, and social media legacy accounts that you can post to long after a friend of a loved one has died. All of these new tools are changing the way we share our grief for our loved ones and The International Death Online Research Symposium is making sure we are prepared for major shifts in legacy, grief, and memorialization.

Dr. Jo Bell, Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Social Work at the University of Hull, UK and organizer of the fourth Death Online Research Network conference, said:

“We live our lives increasingly online so it is a fairly natural development that many people choose to remember, celebrate and stay connected to their loved ones in a digital way.

“It is fairly widespread that those who have lost a close family member might post a treasured photo to remember and pay tribute on a special day like a birthday. While this doesn’t suit everyone – many people gain a lot of support from their social network by sharing in this way. Celebrities are also often mourned in a collective way online.”

The conference will share valuable insights on the ethical challenges of studying death online, digital afterlife – the way people can continue to have an online presence even after death, technological developments relating to funeral ritual and mourning, as well as the pressures that relatives face when dealing with the emails and social media accounts that remain after death.

Professor Julie Jomeen, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University, said:

“We are delighted to host this conference which is such an important forum for new ideas and research. At the University of Hull, we are committed to improving the health and well-being of communities – both regional and further afield. We have a strong heritage of sharing high-calibre research – including cancer care and diagnosis, palliative care and maternal mental health – and look forward to the advances in our understanding of death-related practices in this digital age.”

This year the conference features two keynote speakers: Psychologist and author Dr. Elaine Kasket will present on her forthcoming book All the Ghosts in the Machine and Professor Charles Ess of the University of Oslo in Norway will address the ethical dimensions, challenges and potentials of death online research.

Want to attend The International Death Online Research Symposium?

You can register HERE and contact Dr. Jo Bell ( for more information. Registration is just $164 which includes lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments for three days and a conference dinner.