Physically distant but socially connected: streaming funerals, memorials and ritual design during COVID-19

Stacey Pitsillides*, Jayne Wallace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Since the early stages of the internet, online environments have provided new opportunities for coping with grief and interacting with the dead (Sofka, 1997; Roberts, 1999). This has led to a growing body of knowledge on Death Online (Gotved, 2014). COVID-19 has shifted these expressions from novel to the norm, particularly through the increase in live-streaming of funerals. This chapter will expand on how COVID-19 is providing new vantages on death online, exploring the role of ritual, telepresence and meaning making through design and HCI (Human–Computer Interaction). COVID-19 has meant that some rituals involving physical presence are forbidden, for example washing and viewing of bodies, but accounts from funeral directors share how technology is being used to fill these gaps – creatively allowing for intimate connections across media. Communal gatherings are also taking place on social media platforms for example, in China, where citizens continue writing to Li Wenliang, the doctor and whistle-blower – continuing bonds by sharing memorials and mundane observations of life, intermingled with political advocacy, while interactive memorials for COVID-19 like Unfinished Fairwell (Li and Wu, 2020) create shared opportunities to honour the collective dead. This balance between sensitively designed rituals and making do with existing technologies allows for design research to speculate on how technologies could support communities and individuals in dealing with death during a pandemic.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeath, Grief and Loss in the Context of COVID-19
EditorsPentaris Panagiotis
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Chapter4
Pages60-76
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000417678
ISBN (Print)9780367647322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Advances in Health and Social Policy

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