Mydeathspace.com

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Mydeathspace.com is a site, or a virtual cemetary, where deceased members of the community myspace are commemorated. Or well, not really: 

“It was never my intention of creating a memorial site,” Mr. Patterson, a 25-year-old San Francisco paralegal, said, though his Web site has been sometimes incorrectly lumped in with a growing number of spaces for online mourning. “Sure, it says to be respectful on the front page, but I didn’t want to create another Legacy.com or Memory-of.com or one of those sites,” he said, referring two other death-related domains that, unlike MDS, are devoted to paying homage to lost loved ones.

Instead, Mr. Patterson said he wanted his site to be a wake-up call to young people. “I wanted kids to read about people their age dying in drunk driving accidents and then not have that fourth or fifth drink that weekend when they’re attending a party. … Teens think they’re invincible. Looking through the hundreds of deaths on MDS shows you they are not,” he said.

For each death MDS features, it posts an obituary, a photograph, and visitor comments about the death, along with a link to the dead person’s MySpace profile. Also available on the site is an interactive map of America, allowing visitors to find information on deaths in any region of the country by clicking on the skull of their choosing. All the deaths posted have been submitted to Mr. Patterson via email, many times by family members and friends. Patterson says he receives an average of 5-10 notices each day.

This is what I find interesting about Mydeathspace:
– Since the creator has decided to only work with myspace-profiles, it shows the deaths of young people, which most times are dramatic. First you get the gossipy morbid curiousity feeling. You scroll down a list of suicides, accidents and murders and of course stop to click on the most outrageous one. You enter the MDS profile of this outrageous death story, and read some more about the death. Still you think it’s some freak circus that went on in a parallell universe. Then you enter the dead persons myspace, and the experience makes a u-turn from shallow and curious amazement to a deeper heartcatching sadness. The myspace pages are turned into memorials. Friends stay here months after the death, talking to the deceased, writing poems, sharing their mourning experience. And in this way, the story gets real. It’s a really interesting example of creating an experience, and to humanize and personalize death. 

– There is no screening. Everybody can comment, and everybody can write whatever they feel like. And even though a lot of people take advantage of the anonymity of internet, and writes horrific stuff, I feel it’s more personal without screening. MDS says that discussion is the point of the forum, and that they instead have moderators answering the people who writes these stupid comments. If you compare with Legacy.com you’ll get the difference. 


If you compare mydeathspace to a real life cemetary, the differences are:
– A cemetary can be airy or chilly or saicred or peaceful and calming, just by it’s own presence; by being a graveyard. A cemetary can make you feel close to history, and to all kind of life faiths and life stories. It has reality and mystique. But it also have boundaries. Since the net is an experimental organ, this is the place where you can try to break the boundaries. For instance, at a cemetary, you do not have access to the life stories, or to the stories of how it all ended. This makes the cemetary to a mystical place. Mydeathspace do not tell you all about the deceased’s life, (since it does not want to be a memorial), but it tells you the shocking end, and gives you the link to look further, to investigate.

– By participating in the forum you even investigate the deaths together with other people. You do not have to pay repect to a religion or to social norms. Morbid curiousity is just fine. Playing around with tragic stories, as if they were not real, is fine. A real life cemetary is like a library, you do not talk to the other visitors, and also, you of course obey all the social laws. On internet, you can be anonymous.

A few interesting things about myspace memorials:
– People use the myspace page to continue talking to the deceased friend.
– Friends and family have a place to mourn together and get closure.
– The place is more personal and a lot warmer then the cemetary. You get to mourn the person and not the death.
– This is a place which you can easily return to, where you will not feel as alone as at the cemetary.
– Law enforcement authorities across the U.S. turn to MySpace for help with roughly 150 criminal probes a month. They spend hours at the memorials, learning about the victims life and untangeling social networks, looking for clues to solve the murders.
– In real life, people stay on their own side of the fence. Even though it’s common that victims and their killers are acquainted, people choose sides and do not interact after the catastrophe.On social network sites, those sides interact. Victims’ buddies can howl at killers’ cousins, and the cousins can scream back. All the old social relationship models and theories don’t apply anymore.    
Questions:
– Is this the way to personalize death? Is it a good way to mourn? Are there boundaries which shouldn’t be broken? What about ethical dilemmas? If this was a place for people killed in war instead of myspace members, how would it work? What would be the message and the experience?
– Sara Stiber

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4 Responses to “Mydeathspace.com”


  1. 1 Vivian Grooms February 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I don’t know where you get your information; but I intend on getting my son’t information taken off of here and I don’t know how people like yourself sleep at nite putting information online that isn’t entirely truth.
    I will be working to find out how to get you shut down. After a family and friends have to deal with a loss, then to learn some slim of the earth are making a living off of the dead just goes to show what a society we live in that some of you do not have or even fathom what a conscience is.
    May God show mercy to you as I don’t have it in me to do so right now.

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