Many internet-dependent consumers rely on online networks to get through the day, but what happens to their mediated selves and their respective environments if they suddenly pass away? The New York Times explores this scenario in speculative fashion, citing the current generation’s tendency to simply gather data and post pieces of themselves online, while gradually forgetting to place these pieces in longstanding memoirs or photo albums to be passed on:
Increaingly, we’re not leaving a record of life by culling and stowing away physical journals or shoeboxes of letters and photographs for heirs or the future. Instead, we are, collectively, busy producing fresh masses of life-affirming digital stuff: five billion images and counting on Flickr; hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos uploaded every day; oceans of content from 20 million bloggers and 500 million Facebook members; two billion tweets a month. Sites and services warehouse our musical and visual creations, personal data, shared opinions and taste declarations in the form of reviews and lists and ratings, even virtual scrapbook pages. Avatars left behind in World of Warcraft or Second Life can have financial or intellectual-property holdings in those alternate realities.
We pile up digital possessions and expressions, and we tend to leave them piled up, like virtual hoarders.