Redesigning Grief: Digital Design's Impact on Grieving Online and Its Responsibility to Improve the Experience




Di Sarli, Gabriela Carina

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Grief, while one of the most universal human experiences, can lead to long-lasting mental health issues for some if the loss was sudden or violent. Even in so-called “normal” grief, an individual will experience a huge disruption to their life. Web 2.0 marked the evolution of users from passive consumers of content to active participants who generate content and dialogue with other users through social media. In this digitally mediated age, a person will generate massive amounts of data in the form of photos, videos, audio, documents, chats, and other files, which will become their digital legacy postmortem. The objectives of this research were to 1) understand the foundation of modern grief theory; 2) investigate the ways in which the internet and computing have transformed archiving rituals post-loss; and 3) critically analyze the designer’s role in shaping the experience of grief online. In this ethnographic study, participants were asked questions surrounding their current mourning practices and how they handle the digital legacy of their loved ones. Fieldwork with bereaved users revealed that in addition to physical crafting, digital crafting has emerged as a common practice due to a large number of conversations and interactions being digitally mediated. Digital crafting in the context of bereavement can be described as the act of gathering, editing, curating, and archiving a variety of digital materials for the purpose of record-keeping, remembering, sharing, and future bequeathing. A speculative design project is presented to bring attention to the role that designers play in the experience of the bereaved and challenge them to consider new ways to facilitate connections between the bereaved and deceased through digital media.



Bereavement, Grief, Mourning, Thanatosensitive design, Human-computer interaction, Speculative design, Digital crafting, Digital legacy


Di Sarli, G. C. (2021). <i>Redesigning grief: Digital design's impact on grieving online and its responsibility to improve the experience</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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