My little brother is obsessed with the Facebook game FarmVille. The general idea is that you farm property with other people. I don’t really get it, but the game has more than 62 million users.
This sounds morbid, but what happens to your farm, or your Facebook account, or your e-mail account when you die? The New York Times has a fascinating story on this topic, although it refers more directly to user agreements companies like MySpace and Facebook have you sign.
Off-line, the post office does not send someone to burn your correspondence after an obituary appears in the paper. The deed and title company does not send a crew to tear down your home. But online, under the agreements that users accept, that can be the default setting.
Seeing as how I’m only in my 20s, it’s never even occurred to me think about what to do with e-mail accounts, etc. when I pass away. And since all of this social networking and internet stuff is relatively new, I bet a lot of other people also haven’t thought about this.
Michael Wesch, who works as a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University has one really neat theory, according to the article.
In one future he imagined, the dead themselves might become avatars: “Computers may gather all those traces, and my son could get online, and have interactions with a computer-generated entity that would simulate what I would be like,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of court cases in the past about how best to preserve our cultural heritage,” Mr. Wesch said. “The future battles could very well be about this type of information and how it’s handled.”
As our society evolves and gets more involved with screens, the internet and online media, what to do with our accounts will become more and more prevalent.