Digital Ghosts Pt. 1

Digital Ghosts is an ongoing speculative design project exploring the potential commodification of data left behind by deceased users. The goal is to provoke public debate of the moral and ethical responsibilities of businesses, designers and entrepreneurs regarding the access, management and use of customer data ‘after life’. 


Speculation No. 1

Today, many people experience the continued presence of deceased users, often inadvertently, within socially-oriented products and services. Most of us see this as ‘unintentional’ and often dismiss and forgive it on the basis of ‘Well, it’s just because the algorithms don’t know any better.’

As we start to address these algorithmic ignorances, products and services will know better. Yet, what should be done with the profiles, data and content of deceased users continues to go unaddressed in the design of them. What would it look like if market forces answered this question for us? Would the values of the market align with our own values? History has shown us that the answer to this is often no. 

If market forces valued driving customer engagement over say, emotional senstivity and courtesy - what would this experience be like for us? How would this make us feel? The fictional products shown below intentionally utilize deceased user data within their recommendation algorithms. Encounters with of these ‘digital ghosts’ are no longer accidental. They are intentional, wrapping content within a hyper-emotional frame aimed to tug at our very fundamental human desire to reconnect with those we’ve lost. 

Listening history and geo-location data of your deceased connections are used to generate and push recommendations to you. Whenever you pass a location in which the deceased had been listening, a selection associated from that location is sent to you as a personalized recommendation. 

Points of Interest
Locations in which you'd previously checked in with a now deceased connection are highlighted as ‘memorial points’ in your map view.

Favorites from deceased connections are recommended alongside the hottest new restaurants as opportunities to re-live times you’d had with them.