Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond
by Tamara Kneese
Yale University Press
August 2023, 272 pages
Since the internet’s earliest days, people have died and mourned online. In quiet corners of past iterations of the web, the dead linger. But attempts at preserving the data of the dead are often ill-fated, for websites and devices decay and die, just as people do. Death disrupts technologists’ plans for platforms. It reveals how digital production is always collaborative, undermining the entrepreneurial platform economy and highlighting the flaws of techno-solutionism.
Big Tech has authority not only over people’s lives but over their experiences of death as well. Ordinary users and workers, though, advocate for changes to tech companies’ policies around death. Drawing on internet histories along with interviews with founders of digital afterlife startups, caretakers of illness blogs, and transhumanist tinkerers, the technology scholar Tamara Kneese takes readers on a vibrant tour of the ways that platforms and people work together to care for digital remains. What happens when commercial platforms encounter the messiness of mortality?
Tamara Kneese is a visiting scholar at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Oakland, CA.
> Interview with Tamara Kneese published in The Observer on 30 September 2023.