Death + Technology

John vs. Dead Bodies vs. Brooklyn

Our own esteemed professor of death, John Troyer, expounds on what else, the invention of the modern human corpse, at a lecture near you, if near you happens to be New York.

“Bodies Embalmed by Us NEVER TURN BLACK!”: A Brief History of the Hyperstimulated Human Corpse

Date: Thursday, July 2, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM
Admission: Free
@ the Observatory, No. 543 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York

Death + the Web

Death’s Not Dead! Leastwise Not Online

Dying is no reason to give up online social life
Richard Mullins, Tampa Tribune (May 26, 2009)

In this AP article, Mullins gives a snapshot of some of the online memorializing and alert services available from or through funeral homes or independent providers. Want your loved ones emailed reminders about your death anniversary for all eternity? No problem. Get swept up by the Rapture and need to pass on some last minute instructions, warnings and/or neener-neeners to all the heathens in your life? You’re covered.

It makes sense that our desire to express ourselves in life carries over into death—and web tech being the medium du jour, why not a virtual cemetery? Nor is it surprising that creative (and often, *ahem*, exploitative) minds look to make a buck on new trends and technology, especially when selling—or better, collecting rent on—essentially nothing for someone who doesn’t even realize it’s happening.

But it is interesting that we look to the web—a rapidly, constantly changing beast—for permanence and perpetuity. It is no small irony that the site (profiled in the article), where you can pimp your loved one’s virtual Zen Garden memorial with golf clubs and other swag (for additional fees, of course), is no longer operational.

Death + Technology Defying Death

Better Living Through Not Dying: Cryonic / Belief Suspension

This American Life: Mistakes Were Made
originally aired April 18, 2008.

This American Life does it again. “Mistakes Were Made” looks at the rise and fall of cryonics—the freezing of people at the moment of death with the hope and belief that death in the future will be merely a disease: curable if not entirely preventable. Interviewing Bob Nelson, president of the Cryonics Society of California in the ’60s, this podcast superbly captures the optimism, naivete and undeniably quirky drama of the cryonics movement.

Hard science and religion tend to dominate discourses of death; cryonics goes to show that imaginative, techno-magical thinking—that technology and the future will save us from biology—makes an equally fascinating contribution to our ideas about the natures of both life and death.

Funeral Industry

TAL: Business of Death

This American Life: Business of Death
originally aired April 18, 1997.

This American Life delves into the death business, with readings from Thomas Lynch (The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade), Michael Lesy (Wisconsin Death Trip, Forbidden Zone), David Sedaris and more. An oldie but a goodie. 🙂

Funeral Industry

The Art of the Death Business

Jason Boone snoops around the 2008 National Funeral Directors Convention, offering a glimpse into death industry gadgets, gimmicks and personalities. Aired on Current TV, this video short includes a number of flyby alternative burial and creative memorializing products and perspectives on the profession from young funeral directors.

Contributed to January 22, 2009.