EuroIA 2015

Madrid, 24 – 26 September

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Death and UX? Digital Afterlife and Digital Legacy

A talk by Agnieszka Maria Walorska

In my talk I will address questions around the digital afterlife and legacy, as well as other questions and constraints. As far as possible I provide answers and recommendations based on research and the learning from the digital afterlife project I’m currently working on.

I’m not introducing a new problem here: Approximately 1/3 of all Facebook-Accounts already belong to deceased users and the numbers are rising. About 10.000 Facebook users die every day. And Facebook, of course, is not the only one relevant platform. Death has long since arrived online – but how should we handle it? What happens with the digital legacy of a user? Does the digital death always follow the physical death?

Numerous providers try to find a solution for this problem – and they fail. Why is it so? Which challenges are posed by the uncomfortable topic “death” to the entire user experience of the product (from user guidance over visual design to content strategy)? What can we do to overcome them? There are many open questions regarding this topic. In my talk I’ll try to provide answers to at least some of them.

I could say – “I don’t care what happens to my digital accounts after I die, I’m dead anyway”. But it’s not that easy. What would happen if I would die tomorrow? As I’m not married, my parents would be the ones, who have to deal with it. And they are definitely not “digital natives”. They wouldn’t have an idea which services I was using and how to deal with them after I die. They wouldn’t know what would me my preferences: do I want everything to disappear? Would I prefer a “memorial profile” (which is for example possible on Facebook)? Or maybe I would just like to stay as it is? If I don’t want my parents to have one more thing to deal with (as if the death of their child wasn’t enough) – maybe I should take care of it while still alive?

But how? There are already different services trying to help users managing their digital afterlife. But they struggle. Why?

  • People just don’t want to deal with their own death – especially while being young and healthy;
  • It’s difficult to get user feedback (for example conduct user tests) in the context of death;
  • It’s difficult to verify the death of the user – in a way which is both user-friendly and highly secure;
  • There are no universal standards and regulations: neither for reporting the death of the user nor for creating a last will for digital data.

Agnieszka Maria Walorska

Agnieszka M. Walorska is a founder of a digital consultancy Creative Construction Heroes GmbH, focusing on User Experience and Digital Innovation. Agnieszka is a speaker and author of publications on usability and readability. She has lead successful UX and innovation projects for banks and energy, insurance and media companies. Agnieszka is dealing with digital innovation and User Experience for more then 1/3 of her life now.

When not solving UX- and innovation-problems, she’s training for the next long-distance triathlon.

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