Curious Trends


Online immortality

In 2004 I realized that a major new trend was emerging – one that combined life-caching (the desire to digitally collect and store information), with a burgeoning interest in history, ancestry and genealogy. I launched a website called Diary of Mankind in 2005, calling it a digital time capsule, where people from around the world could upload photos, record their life stories and memories for future generations.

In my 2006 book, Trends Beyond Life: In Search of Immortality I discussed the social and technological changes that lay behind our growing preoccupation with death and the desire to be remembered. I explained that “we are at the beginning of a major shift towards a renewed interest in family history, social responsibility, local networks, community-based interest groups and the value of life as determined by our ultimate mortality…or immortality.” I predicted that in the future “History and historians will regain prominence…Biographies, autobiographies, online diaries, obituaries and blogs will capture our attention...”

In an October 2009 blog post entitled ‘Ultimate style statement?’ I talked of the curious “trend towards sharing everything – memories included…Could this be part of a major revolution, not just in the way we choose to express ourselves, but also in the way we wish to be remembered by future generations? …Digital time capsules are seen to be ways of preserving our thoughts, wishes and memories for posterity.” I also questioned whether or not “evidence of our mass online collaboration, our creative efforts and our achievements (will even) outlast us, let alone immortalize us for centuries to come?”

There are, of course, websites such as Second Life, where members can live a virtual existence in the form of their individually customized avatars, by whom they will presumably be outlived. However, the majority will undoubtedly wish to develop their online identities in a more conventional way.

My blog post stated that ”Our current fascination with family history, ancestry, antiques, old photos, curiosities and all things retro reflects our appreciation of the memories, style, taste and contributions of previous generations.” This is something that has been picked up on by a new website called Historypin, which calls itself a ‘digital history of the world’. Working in partnership with Google, the site developed by We Are What We Do offers users the opportunity to upload old photographs and add content to tell the story behind each picture. The photos are portrayed in a global context on a digital map of the world, as well as on a time line, making this the ultimate digital atlas for historical geographers. The site aims to address the gaps across generations by sharing stories and exchanging cultures – which, curiously, is something we’d been doing for centuries before the advent of modern digital communications.

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