Dust to Dust

By Dahsuel Jung

Have you ever thought about how your social media data will be processed after you die?

We are living in an age of digital immortality thanks to social media and its inherited intellectual property rights. Our online activities eventually establish digital identities as records for the future. Furthermore, many celebrities are unintentionally trapped in this digital world after they die while continuing to exist with immense effects on the public. Society and companies, however, are often more eager to generate profits from this digital data that is left behind, rather than mourning or cherishing the entities they represent.

In the work Dust to Dust, Dahsuel Jung highlights the side-effects of leftover data on the internet, as a means of questioning how we might ideally treat the left over social media data of our dead. The work reflects on the biblical notion that “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again,"[1] taken from Ecclesiastes 3:20.



Marilyn Monroe's Instagram account posted on #BlackoutTuesday.

Marilyn Monroe's Instagram account posted on #BlackoutTuesday.

Muhammad Ali's Instagram account posted on #BlackoutTuesday.

Muhammad Ali's Instagram account posted on #BlackoutTuesday.

A lot of dead celebrities remain active on facebook and instagram accounts that are often controlled by for-profit corporations. These agents do not require a family's permission to control online ephemera of the deceased. They used to promote products or get politically involved. For example, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley and many others joined the #BlackoutTuesday protests, and also, while Ronald Reagan and Tom Petty supported Trump’s reelection campaign.[4]

Face of AI robot implemented with chatbot technology

Face of AI robot implemented with chatbot technology

Recently, another to generate profit by data of a dead person’s social media technology was introduced by Microsoft. In December 2020, Microsoft has been granted a patent creating chatbot[5] based on the images, voice data, social media posts, text messages, and written letters to create a dead as artificial intelligence.

Perhaps the reincarnation to AI and social/political involvement may have a positive impact on the family, relative, friend and public. However, what we need to aware of is that we never know the choices and intentions of the dead. They are already dead.

The Wind Telephone, where people can hold one-way conversations with deceased loved ones.

The Wind Telephone[6], where people can hold one-way conversations with deceased loved ones.

In 2010, Japanese garden designer Itaru Sasaki built a telephone booth in his garden. It contained an unconnected rotary phone on which he could talk with his late, beloved cousin. After the 2011 tsunami hit Otsuchi and a tenth of its population was killed, the Wind Telephone became a place of solace for thousands of visitors. In an interview, Sasaki explained why the telephone box was named “Wind Telephone." There was his thoughtful mind that the people left behind would blow away the painful feelings and memories to the dead with the wind.

Dust to Dust is inspired by Sasaki's philosophical thought and attitude toward death. We are currently living with countless digital data of dead people in the age of digital immortality. However, Dahsuel have reached to the idea that facing death and blowing them away with the wind in memory is one of the fair method to mourn. She further researched funeral & burial rituals from around the world and especially discovered the visual materials from the traditional Mongolian tomb, called Ovoo.