Death in Digital Society

Death in Digital Society

Co-badged by the Australian Death Studies Society, these talks focus on the implications of combining technology with death and grief studies, and how this changes our death related practices as a society. We approach the issue from three different perspectives. Firstly, the practices of grieving on social media, and speculation about the future of digital grief. Secondly, the implications for death and succession law in the face of ever-evolving thanatechnology. Finally, the digitisation of human specimens and the ethics at play as these human stories enter the digital world through 3D scanning, digital education, and more.

  • When: Wednesday 3rd May 2023, 1pm to 3pm
  • Where: Conference room, Level 6, Forgan Smith Tower, UQ, St Lucia

Please register your attendance so we can adhere to room capacity. If you find you are no longer able to attend after you have registered, please cancel your tickets.

About this event

This event will host three lightning talks and an open discussion about death and grief in digital society.


PhD Candidate Katy McHugh (UQ) – Grieving in the Social platform machine

Katy’s PhD project examines how the COVID-19 pandemic drastically increased and transformed practices in digital grief, particularly on social media platforms. The urgency and relevance of this research has been driven not only by the pandemic, but by rapidly evolving thanatechnologies like generative AI which are being used to produce interactive versions of the dead. Katy is particularly interested in the ways that technology mirrors and transforms traditional grieving practices, and the tendency of social media platforms to take and transform human emotions and grief. Katy researches through speculative design, and will share examples of creative thanato-sensitive designs.

Katy McHugh is the DCS learning designer, with years of experience designing innovative online learning materials for the Arts and Humanities. Katy’s own research looks at how society uses digital tools to navigate conversations around death and grief, and the role of technology as both facilitator and participant in human relationships.


Dr Kate Falconer (UQ) – New Death Technologies and the Private Law of Death

Since the origins of Homo sapiens, death has been one of the few certainties of human life. But perhaps no longer. Once the realm of science fiction, new death technology startups such as EterniMe and Replika give us the chance to ‘live’ on forever after our biological death in the form of digital avatars. Sometimes called ‘deathbots’ or ‘thanobots’, these AI-based avatars can interact with our friends and loved ones in an increasingly sophisticated manner. In doing so, they challenge the very notion of death itself, leading to all manner of problems within the bodies of law that govern our remains and our property when we cease to exist.

Kate Falconer is a Lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law. Her research interests lie in the law of the dead and bodily disposal, and the ways in which the private law interacts with death, the dead, and dead bodies. She is particularly interested in the impacts and implications of new death technologies both for private law and society more broadly.


Rebecca Lush (UQ) – Digitising the Pathology Museum

The Integrated Pathology Learning Centre (IPLC) cares for just over 5000 human specimens displaying a diversity of diseases. In recent years, the push towards creating a digital platform for museums has saturated the sector. As the pressure to release digital content kept building, we had to ponder the following - how can a pathology museum with specimens relating to death enter this digital world? What are the ethics at play and what best caters to our audience? This presentation will guide you through how the IPLC went from no digital content in 2019 to 3D scanning, digital education programs, and everything in between.

Rebecca Lush is the Curator of the Integrated Pathology Learning Centre at The University of Queensland. She has worked in the museum and heritage sector in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria since 2009 across numerous departments. Her research interests include medical history, particularly the history of disease.