• Death in the Age of Information

This research project looks at the increasing commercialization of so called digital human remains (data left on the Internet by deceased users), a phenomenon referred to as the Digital Afterlife Industry (DAI). The aim is to improve the empirical understanding of emerging business models and practices, and to develop a critical framework to investigate the ethical dimensions of said development.

Online technologies enable vast amounts of data to outlive their producers on the Internet, giving rise to new forms of afterlife presence. This, in turn, has disrupted the way we mourn and maintain contact with the dead. Several firms already offer personal virtual avatars that outlive the user and continues to live on, on the Web. Facebook’s memorialization feature is quickly becoming common practice for mourning. This brings about many opportunities, but also poses difficult challenges as the presence of the online dead is generally mediated by commercial enterprises with an interest in maximizing the “productivity” of digital remains. The rapid development of the DAI thus calls for a critical investigation of its undesirable ethical consequences.

The project employs a wide variety of research methods, including quantitative approaches to predict the amounts of digital remains to be left on the web over the course of the 21st century, as well as conceptual analysis. Its goal is to identify and define the key challenges associated with commercial management of digital remains, and to provide industry and policymakers with sufficient approaches to such challenges.


  • Carl Öhman

    Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

  • Professor Luciano Floridi

    Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford