With the recent increase in visits to this site, I’ve been explaining its purpose more often in conversation with others. Generally speaking those who are technically-minded understand the issues with digital death and are surprised that they hadn’t considered them before. That epiphany is my favorite moment in any conversation about this. But I’ve talked with more people recently who don’t get it. One person today told me this “I think of it just like I think of what happens to my body: I won’t be here to care.” I may have paraphrased that inadvertently due to my memory, but I must say that I completely disagree with that sentiment.
Digital assets are rapidly replacing tangible ones. Consider family photos. These days they are more likely to be digital from the time they’re taken. Archivists refer to this as a “born-digital” asset. These born-digital assets, in this case digital photographs, are family heirlooms, a vital part of your identity. Passing these heirlooms to the next generation is not just a luxury, it’s an integral part of identity preservation. We’ve been doing this for ages. By passing an object of our identity along, we can leave a story or memory behind. It’s important to know how your survivors will obtain your born-digital assets, because they won’t find a drawer of printed photos in your residence, they’ll have to go looking on your computer or in the cloud.
The issue of identity preservation is just one of many others. What about access to vital information like emails or web hosting accounts? How about the necessity to delete some content, to hide things you wouldn’t want others to know? I could probably think of a million other reasons why this issue is important, but the bottom line is that the more digital assets you have (and it’s growing, trust me) the problem will only grow.
To that thought, I’d like to hear some of the reasons you’re considering the digital afterlife. Comment it up, folks.