Death + Technology Death + the Web Funeral Industry

Webcasting Killed the Funeral Star

For the Funeral Too Distant, Mourners Gather on the Web
Laura M. Holson, The New York Times (January 25, 2011)
Webcast funerals reach more friends and family members and reflect the fact that people are living more and more online.

In January 2010, Meg posted some articles and a video about webcasting funeral services. Now, in January 2011, the New York Times is finally catching up to the postmortem future laid bare by ye olde Death Reference Desk.

Yet again, the Gray Lady is reporting on a story that is not particularly new. Or, at least, a new story for the funeral industry. I first read about webcasting funerals in 2002. Indeed, the funeral industry trade journals all discuss webscasting and webpresence and web death (for lack of a better term) nonstop.

The great irony of funeral webcasting (for me at least) is that the modern American funeral developed around waiting for people to arrive for a funeral. One of the reasons embalming became so prevalent in US funerals was that it allowed the preserved dead body to be shipped on a train without decomposing. Embalming also created time for the next-of-kin to arrive for a funeral, without worrying that prolonged travel would cause problems with the body. So, in nutshell, the modern funeral developed around travel time to funerals.

Postmortem Space and Time was expanded.

Webcasting inverts the whole situation. The need for travel time or to ship the body is being greatly reduced. There isn’t anything good or bad with this situation. It does mean that more people will have access to a funeral (given access to the required technology) and that’s certainly better than nothing.

And the webcasting trend is most certainly the future for most funeral services.

The question I always ask myself is this: What is lost by not attending the funeral in person? If anything? Given the choice, I will always attend a funeral in person. My own personal interactions with the other attendees and the deceased individual are important experiences.

I say all this now but I have strong suspicion that in the coming years I will end up “attending” a webcast funeral.

It seems inevitable at this point.

In an effort to find a YouTube video of an actual funeral being webcast I came across the follow advert. This was not entirely what I wanted to use…but it was too good to pass up.

3 replies on “Webcasting Killed the Funeral Star”

There’ll always be much to be said for living witness. A lot depends on degrees of closeness. Jetaholics will promise to watch on their BlackBerry (they’d never have been able to tear themselves away anyway). Infirm faraways can watch on their computer screen. Nice.

Very interesting point about postmortem space and time. Will trocars now grow rusty and juicers indigent?

That ad is…

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