User Not Found
January 13, 2003 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Online people die too. It would surely be a surprise if they didn't. Alas, how do we deal with real scenarios in virtual spaces? Dana J. Robinson is exploring death as it relates to this digital space.
posted by pedantic (23 comments total)
Personally, I'm on vacation.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2003

...that said (too quickly), I must say that it was a really touching article. Thank you.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:07 AM on January 13, 2003

She should include bunnies and dogs in her study.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2003

Interesting article. A "death-check" system like the one soundofsuburbia linked to above seems like a real hassle, though. If I really wanted to make sure people knew it when I was gone, I'd just leave instructions with good friends or a lawyer to e-mail someone in particular or post at a certain site.

(So the Cardososignal isn't the best way to go?)
posted by Vidiot at 9:21 AM on January 13, 2003

Online people die too.

Why, yes. Yes they do.
posted by languagehat at 9:25 AM on January 13, 2003

Touché, languagehat, touché.
posted by pedantic at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2003

When I die, I plan to will my online persona to my heirs, and I hope they do the same. It's my own little slice of immortality.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2003

But then how do we know you haven't died already?
posted by yhbc at 10:01 AM on January 13, 2003

Paging Doctor Boisselier...
posted by Vidiot at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2003

He's the Dread Pirate Roberts of the Internet!
posted by Pancake Overlord at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2003

I was very shocked and saddened last year when photojournalist Raffaele Cieriello was gunned down in Ramallah last March while on assignment. I had often visited his site Postcards from Hell. His family keeps the site up in tribute, and on the front page is the video clip shot seconds before his death.
It was discussed in Mefi at the time.

Sometimes sites that were well maintained for years just stop and you have no way of knowing what happened. For example, does anyone know what happened to Raphael Carter's Honeyguide? His was one of the early blogs I began following in 1998, and then it just stopped last year. No replies to an e-mail query, but popular bloggers don't necessarily answer all e-mail. Did he move on to other things?

Curious the attachment you make to people with online sites even though you may not really know them at all - an issue that will only continue as the web ages.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:07 AM on January 13, 2003

Okay then, what about if *just* someone's online persona dies, like if someone decides their reputation is damaged beyond repair or they can no longer maintain a personality online for whatever reason (financial, personal, legal, whatever), and they decide to permanently retire their online selves?

Or what if someone gets "caught" the way Kaycee did?

These are all deaths too, aren't they? Friends of that "person" still have to deal with that loss. Just because you never saw them doesn't mean they didn't occupy a space in your life.

This is a great idea.
posted by chicobangs at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2003

" do we know you haven't died already?"

That's the beauty of it. I've been dead since 1873.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:30 AM on January 13, 2003

I've also always thought is a great idea. But like Honeyguide, it seems to be a simple headstone of what was.
posted by pedantic at 11:29 AM on January 13, 2003

Madam: I've been wondering the same thing about Carter. I ran across an essay he wrote about hummingbird poems in which he said he could only find three; I figured there must be more, so I did a little research and blogged it. Readers kept adding more in my comments section, and I sent Carter two messages telling him about this wealth of hummingbirdery but never heard back. Let me know if you find out anything, OK?
posted by languagehat at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2003

there are no virtual spaces. there is no cyberspace. when online people die, they stop typing back to you.
posted by quonsar at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2003

i created user not found with hopes of starting dialogue about this fairly new and increasingly relevant topic. fortunately, it's worked, and people are blogging about their stories. unfortunately, they're largely blogging on their own sites and not in the comments section at the site, so it's been hard for me to collect everything that's being discussed. chicobangs' comment...oddly enough i just posted a story today about hoaxes. when people lie about their identity and how that impacts the people who were close with the false identity. i suspect that one will hit home with a lot of people since so many people were involved with the kaycee nicole fiasco.
posted by maybeiam at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2003

User Not Found is a weblog devoted to the discussion of dealing with the death of online friends.

This makes me somewhat ill at a conceptual level. Perhaps its the thought that we're so squishy:

"Still, we shared a common passion and a common way of expressing it, and because of that I genuinely feel a sense of loss."

This, out of context, sounds reasonable, but its about someone's web content. Did you know them? Were they a nice person? Was their online persona even -real-?

I think the world has more than enough empty sentiment without adding more.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:55 PM on January 13, 2003

I'm not dead, but my nicksakes' careers are...

Which is too bad, even though I can't stand their music. I was hoping to get a picture of myself with them next time they swung through my neck of the woods. Alas.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2003

This makes me somewhat ill at a conceptual level.

I can understand uneasiness around death since it is something that seems final (insert your dogma), however, it is the only sure thing. Taxes, heh, not according to some of our infomercial friends.

This, out of context, sounds reasonable, but its about someone's web content.

Is it? If you merely read a site, they aren't a friend. It is like reading a book. You don't know the author. I think what Dana is getting at are people you meet through the Internet, possibly email, possibly chat, possibly phone and possibly meet in real life. Even then, your relationship is still 99% online.
posted by pedantic at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2003

There is a young adult book, “The gospel according to Larry”, by Janet Tashjian , Holt, 2001, where she explores what happens when a kid becomes famous on the web, then gets “outed” in his real identity and how it destroys a lot of things. An interesting read and it seems to fit with this thread.
posted by tio2d at 6:01 PM on January 13, 2003

madamjjj and languagehat:
Yeah, Raphael Carter's ignoring his weblog and his e-mail.... I assumed he'd holed himself up to work on a slew of short stories or a new novel. (A lot of us do.) As much as I miss the HoneyGuide links, I'd MUCH rather read a new Raphael Carter story or a new Raphael Carter novel!
As far as I know, Raphael's just hermitting. Cross your fingers we get some good NEW stuff to read out of HoneyGuide's hiatus.
That said... Yeah, I miss the beautiful bug pictures too. *sigh* Can't have everything.
posted by realjanetkagan at 11:32 PM on January 14, 2003

I surf dead people.
posted by Opus Dark at 12:00 AM on January 15, 2003

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