The Rapture Of Being Alive: Mourning, Narrative, And Communicative Ritual In The Digital Age

Marjorie Merideth Drinan, Syracuse University


Conversations have an afterlife. But what if the afterlife could have conversations? In that metaphorical space, the author explores how technology and design will engender new communicative rituals and tools of mourning as the semiotics of traditional gravescapes begin to diffuse. This pivot will occur in tandem with the rise of alternative forms of body disposition and growing environmental stewardship in response to increased urbanization and notions of intergenerational equity. Digital space, the postmodern hearth of an ever individualized and fractured society, will enable a plurality of mourning as the idea of legacy is deconstructed within the framework of transhumanism and the construction of the self. This paper will investigate the multidisciplinary, synaptic connections of narrative, digital technology, bereavement studies, thanatology, post-humanism, gifting, and sustainability in order to support my proposal for the design white space surrounding end-of-life care. The final design, an extension of the Death Positive movement, is called LifeWrite; however, its implementation transcends the physical endpoint of death. LifeWrite is endowed with multiple life course applications. The final design is also intended to be a therapeutic tool for those persons or families navigating forms of psychosocial death, i.e. various dementias, certain mental illnesses, or traumatic brain injuries.