Virtual Graveyards & Cybermemorials

Virtual Graveyards & Cybermemorial Project

Yasmin Jiwani is an ACT collaborator whose recent research focuses on the online memorialization of loss. Her other research interests encompass issues of media, race, gender and intersectionalities of violence.

There is nary an area of social life that has not been touched by digital technologies. Death is not exempt from this either. Today, we are witnessing a plethora of virtual graveyards and cybermemorials. Many of us who are users of Facebook will have seen the RIP (rest in peace) pages of those who have departed. But virtual graveyards are less familiar.

Yes, these are graveyards in cyberspace and our research has been focused on mapping them, identifying their traits, assessing their accessibility and finding ways in which they can be better used by those of us from communities that have little recourse to other forms of memorializing our dearly departed and remembering them in ways that keep them alive in our imaginations and in our families.

In our quest to chart this terrain, we found 95 virtual graveyards – and the list is growing. Each of these graveyards is different. Some require fees, others are free and managed by individuals who have suffered a loss and wish to extend their compassion to others. Some are sophisticated, featuring all manner of gifs (graphic interfaces) that include placing baskets of fruit, teddy bears, flowers, and poems at the cyber grave site. Others are organized in such as fashion as to have a separate tab for children who have died, and for mourners to mourn their spouses. Still others are organized around particular kinds of death, as for example, the loss of a loved one from a particular disease, or as a result of suicide. Clearly, the range of virtual graveyards runs the gamut, encompassing sites dedicated to commemorating pets, lovers and miscarriages.

In our effort to understand why individuals decide to commemorate their loved ones virtually, we encountered studies that demonstrated their strong therapeutic value. Too often, society demands that our grieving end within a circumscribed time. Work places usually allow two weeks for bereavement. But grief is an ongoing process, and as a process, it takes time. Virtual grave sites offer a chance for the continued working through of grief, and in that sense, the ease the burden on the individual who can do this in private, in the comfort of their homes (if they have a computer and are digitally literate).

Our interest in virtual graveyards is also based on the kinds of stories that memorials tell of lives lived and the struggles and experiences of the deceased. These are the little histories that are only remain in the anecdotes we share with one another. Collectively, though, these little histories tell a larger history of how people migrated, the struggles they experienced, and the actions they took to create a life for themselves and their families.

Through workshops that we will be holding, we hope to provide interested individuals from minoritized communities with a way in which they can share these stories and memorialize their loved ones.

For more information on the virtual graveyards project, visit: www.thanatech.org and contact me at yasmin.jiwani@gmail.com

Shannon Hebblethwaite and Concordia research on aging featured in the Montreal Gazette

ACT researcher Shannon Hebblethwaite was recently featured in a piece in the Montreal Gazette titled “New research from Concordia examines how we can age well while living healthier, longer“. Hebbelthwaite, who is a professor of applied human sciences at Concordia University and the director of the recently-formed engAGE centre for research on aging, discusses her recent research on intergenerationality, and her ACT-funded work on online communication between grandmothers and grandchildren.

Trent University Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunity: 2018

Applications are invited for the following postdoctoral research opportunity:

Position title: Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Culture and Quantified Aging

Supervisor: Dr. Barbara L. Marshall, Department of Sociology, Trent University

Location: Trent University, Peterborough, ON

We are seeking an emerging researcher to work with us on a SSHRC-funded project on “Digital Culture and Quantified Aging”. This project is funded by a 5-year Insight Grant (2017-2022), and the research team includes Dr. Barbara L. Marshall (Trent University, Principal Investigator), Dr. Stephen Katz (Trent University, Co-investigator), Dr. Isabel Pedersen (UOIT, Co-Investigator) and Dr. Wendy Martin (Brunel University London, Collaborator). We anticipate a start date in the spring of 2018 for this one-year position (with the possibility of extension).

Full invitation here: Trent University Post Doctoral Fellowship 2018

Call for papers: Cultures of Participation – Arts, Digital Media, and Politics

CULTURES OF PARTICIPATION – ARTS, DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICS (find full call here)

International and interdisciplinary conference: April 18-20, 2018
Aarhus University, Denmark

Please submit your abstract proposal (max 300 words) and a short bio (max 100 words) to  culturesofparticipation2018@cc.au.dk no later than 5 January 2018. We welcome individual papers as well as panels with three or four contributors.  Authors will be notified of paper acceptance no later than 21 January.
More information here: http://conferences.au.dk/culturesofparticipation2018/

ACT PhD and MA scholarship opportunities at Concordia University

About the research

Kim Sawchuk, Professor in Communication Studies and Director of ACT, is offering scholarship opportunities to students applying for Concordia University’s MA in Media Studies or PhD in Communication Studies at Concordia University. The student will join an exciting department, a dynamic group of researchers and community partners as part of the ACT team in Montreal, and will conduct research that falls within ACT’s mandate, and the parameters of one or more of ACT’s three research axes:

1- Agency in ageing: collaborative creativity and the digital arts in later life encompasses a program of research that involves individuals and communities in the development of participatory action research projects that have both scholarly and creative outcomes.

2- Critical mediations: everyday life and cultures of ageing examines the everyday life practices and the variegated mediated experiences of adults in later life, including by looking at how older adults engage with music, photography, film, television or gaming.

3- Telecommunication technologies: ageing in networked societies investigates ageing in the context of networked societies. Research in this area bridges internet and telecommunications research with ageing studies.

Financial commitment

Selected candidates will receive a funding package for the first year of their graduate degree, comprising of a mix of bursaries and research assistantships. At the MA level, this will entail a total sum of $10,000 ($5,000 bursary and $5,000 research assistantships). At the PhD level, the scholarship corresponds to $20,000 ($10,000 in bursary and $10,000 in research assistantships).

Eligibility

Applicants must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or must hold a valid Canadian employment visa or work permit issued by the federal government.

How to apply

Application deadline: February 1, 2018 (for September 2018 entry)

Step 1
To apply, please send a letter of interest detailing the project you would want to undertake (maximum 3 pages), a CV, and a copy of transcripts to the attention of Dr. Kim Sawchuk at application@actproject.ca. In addition, provide a list of three references with complete contact information, who could be called upon to write letters of recommendation. Only applicants considered will be contacted.

Step 2
Apply to the MA in Media Studies or the PhD in Communication Studies in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University, and mention interest for this opportunity in your statement of purpose.

 

Age 3.0 Aging in the City – Concordia University, November 1

From age friendly cities, to smart cities to sustainable cities, how we live, work, play, engage and negotiate the urban environment is on the public agenda. On November 1, 2017, Age 3.0: Aging in the city will explore the multiple intersections of innovation, technologies and aging, and bring together voices from the university, Montreal-based community groups, and local businesses to explore what it means to grow older together in the city.

For full details, visit our project page: http://actproject.ca/act/age-3-0/

Annual ACT meeting at the University of Ottawa

The fourth annual ACT meeting will take place from October 13 to 15 at the University of Ottawa, Canada. The meeting is organized by local co-applicant Martine Lagacé, and brings together some 40 researchers from the ACT project, from ten different countries.

This year, we celebrate the midway point of the project, look back on what we have accomplished so far, and look ahead to the future as the priorities for the next few years begin to take shape. The meeting will begin with a keynote address by Marcel Mérette of the University of Ottawa, and a roundtable discussion featuring local and ACT researchers, and a representative from the National Research council. Both the keynote and the round-table discussion address the theme of “Bridging research and public policy: questions of aging and technology“.

The meeting continues with a working session on data management for partnerships and another on building and sharing pedagogical tools. A number of ACT researchers will take turns presenting their research to the group, and we will also provide the team with an overview of our midterm report. The tentative meeting agenda can be downloaded here.

ACT panel selected as a “divisional symposium” at CAG2017

The ACT Panel titled “Ageing, Communication, Technologies : Experiencing a Digital World in Later Life” has been selected as the divisional symposium for Social Sciences at the Canadian Association of Gerontology Conference (CAG), to be held from October 19 to 21 in Winnipeg, Canada. The panel will take place on October 21 from 11am to 12:30pm in the York room. You can consult the full program here.

Activist ageing and the “tactical theatrics” of RECAA
Kim Sawchuk,Concordia University,
Constance Lafontaine, Concordia University,

Signing, Ageing, Connecting: Intersections of Deafhood, Ageing and Technology
Line Grenier,Université de Montréal
Véronique Leduc, Université du Québec à Montréal

“A blessing and a curse”: Grandmothers reflections on digitally mediated family relationships
Shannon Hebblethwaite, Concordia University
Kelly Leonard, Concordia University

Aging and Technology Assistive Devices: Assessing the Role of Interpersonal Communication in the Context of Transitional Care 
Martine Lagacé, University of Ottawa
Sarah A. Fraser, University of Ottawa