Stacey Pitsillides is one of my teachers at University of Greenwich. She is a young woman, actually she is even younger than me, but I like her, in my opinion, she is very smart woman and can express herself and her ideas very well. Untill the lecture on Wednesday I know her only in the light of a tutor. Therefore it was intriguing to understand more about her, her projects and her personal interests. The discussion was focused on digital death, which was a captivating subject, mostly because it has affected almost all people around the world in the contemporary way of living.
Stacey started the lecture showing us a few videos about a project she had done in her final year as a student. This task has been called “Rest in Pixels” and exposed how we live with technology every day and what happens with our virtual identity when we die. Basically, this film is an exhibition of our addiction to our computers, mobile phones and our digital live.
Later Stacey showed us a picture of a mummy in the British museum. It is absolutely normal photo, nothing strange in it, it is just a relic in a museum. However, this is an exposure of death. This was a person before, but not anymore. Every day a lot of people go there, look at it, discuss it, but they don’t see a human. It is an object, not a human. It was him, but now is it. After that Stacey talked about how important is collecting stuff and how essential is information. She displayed to us a drawing of a machine, called “Memex” which purpose is to provide an “enlarged intimate supplement to one’s memory”. After World War ll scientists did not need to invent devices for death anymore, so they concentrated on creating systems for data, because realised that “information is power”.
Everything this leads us to the contemporary technologies and how they change our world and our perception, because each tool we use changes us, our way of living and thinking. It is inevitable. Therefore, at present we do not live with technology, we live through technology. I totally agree with that. Many people live online. They forget going for walk or going to drink with friends. They chat on Internet or speak on a phone instead. Nobody prints and collects their pictures in photoalbum anymore. They post all images on Facebook or My Space or Flickr or archive them on their computer. I remember something that Neil Spiller said at one previous lecture “When you invent technology, you invent and disaster”. These words are perfectly valid. Developing technologies we communicate with more people, but also become more antisocialized.
“There a co-development of our societies and the way we exist within the world and our technics so the way we develop technologies and the way we are developing within those systems, so to think about something like the human condition perhaps there is no way of separating out what is intrinsically natural and what is perhaps something we that have created and thus becomes technological.” Stacey Pitsillides
Technology has a great impact on us. We live our life without realising it, without thinking how dependable we are from our belongings. I remember when I moved into a new place to live a few months ago. I did not have internet first two and a half weeks. I was so nervious and so bored, I became aware how deeply I have been connected with it. In some moments I felt as if somebody had cut my hands. I could not speak with my mother on skype, I could not check my e-mails, I could not read any information. Even dictionaries which I use are online. As Stacey wrote in her blog “The internet has become an engaging space where people choose to spend time; socializing, buying, selling and living”.
The lecturer discussed one consuming topic. It was more like a particular situation with a lot of questions to it. That was something which I have been thought before and it was interesting to see another point of view. Actually, it was not exactly different point of view because I have been asked myself the same questions as Stacey. If I have a photograph of someone, is that my photograph or his/hers? It is in my camera, so that means it is mine, because I took it. But the same time on this picture there is another face, not mine, this is a picture of somebody else. It is a still moment of his/her live, not mine. He or she is a human being, but in this case, they are an object in front of my camera. Then if I upload this photo on my computer and share it within a home network, for example with my family network area or with my flatmates, this is not only mine anymore. Or if I upload it on Facebook or some other big shared area, this is no more my photograph, it becomes community possession. I have been considered this theme before, because it is an interesting issue and there is no a concrete answer. So, in the end, who is exactly the owner of this photo? Everybody and nobody. Everybody has it, but nobody owns it. Evebybody can see it, can use it, but only the person on the picture and the person who took it have memories about it. Then Stacey went deeply into the subject with some new questions. So if I took this photograph and after that I die, what happens with it? This photo will be possession of my children maybe, it will remind to them about me, but also it will remind for the person on it and probably this person will be unknown for them. If this image is uploaded on Facebook, then after my death many people who never know me and the person on the picture can see this photo, can save it, use it or discuss it, as we do with a lot of pictures during our lectures. In addition something else has come into my mind. How long is the life of one photograph? It sounds simple, the first answer to this question is that it is a very short life, only within the time you are taking it. However, some people say that this photo is “alive” untill someone remember the person on it or the person who took it. Ot the other hand, it can live forever if this picture is placed on a museum or a gallery or uploaded somewhere in Internet. After many years nobody will know the person on the image or the person who took it, but this piece will be there, existing in the virtual space, provoking emotions, discussions and arguments.
It was curious to understand that there is a virtual cemetery for pets. Stacey explored this and met the person who created it. He explained to her that he had lost his cat and he had been spent 21 years with this animal and it was his family. So, for him that was a huge loss. He could not bear to bury his cat and then was created the idea for a virtual funeral. As a result he built a virtual graveyard and now this is an active business and this person makes money from this. I have noticed two essential things in this story. First, I have been always said that good ideas usually come in sad moments. This person found a way to make a profit during one very sorrowful period in his life. It is not something wrong, if he feels closer to his pet and if he believes that he helps to other people feeling better. However, I still have feeling that this is not right. It is amazing and the same time weird how we can make everything digital today, even the death. Everything in our live is quite public and too commercialized, so I think that some things should stay personal and away from the virtual space.
Stacey has been immersed in this interesting topic about digital death and her research, efforts and information about it can not get out of my head. Probably this is because we all are involved in it. We live in this world, we use these technologies and we create new ways to virtualize our memories, events and feelings. Maybe this is our way to continue existing, even after our death?! Maybe this is easier way to survive in this fast developing world?! Or maybe we just become lazier day after day… But definitely, computers, mobile phones and all kind of devices of this type are not used only for gathering information anymore. They occupy a large part of our life and our existence. I remember one film, named “Surrogates”, I watched maybe 2 or 3 years ago. The storyline has been set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation, remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic surrogates – physically perfect mechanical representations of themselves. When I look at our way of living today, I do not think that we are so far from this future.
In conclusion I want to say that I really enjoyed the lecture. Many new questions has been appeared in my mind and this is an endless topic, but in my opinion, from time to time someone should remind us this subject, because we do not often realise what happens with us and our way of living, our connection with the world and Internet indeed. In the end, I want to finish with one quote of Stacey Pitsillides which I red in her blog, because it sounds quite positive: “So if someone has had a facebook account for many years that could be many many thousands of contributions. Many thousands of little slithers of consciousness, if you like, and yes if that account is not deleted in death than all of those little moments will continue to exist.”