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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I026304/1
Title: Digital Inheritance
Principal Investigator: Moncur, Professor W
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Chambers of Stephen Mason HORIZON Digital Economy Research Intel Corporation Ltd
Microsoft University of Bath University of Edinburgh
Department: School of Computing
Organisation: University of Dundee
Scheme: Postdoc Research Fellowship
Starts: 30 May 2011 Ends: 29 November 2014 Value (£): 241,068
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Information & Knowledge Mgmt Psychology
Sociology Software Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Feb 2011 CDIP PDRF Interview Meeting (Feb 2011) Announced
10 Feb 2011 CDIP PDRF Sift Meeting (Feb 11) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The data that makes up people's online identities lies scattered across the virtual landscape, consisting of emails, photos, social network site interactions and more. Such data can have emotional, financial and intellectual significance. Yet the awkward question of what happens to this data when a user dies lies unanswered. There are three main components to this open question, which this research seeks to address: (1) How do online applications need to change to allow users to nominate data inheritors? There is no obvious mechanism for the bequest of one's digital artefacts. It is subject to the terms of use of individual web sites and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), buried far down in the small print or not dealt with at all. In life, we own our personal data, no matter where it is held. (2) How do online applications need to change to facilitate inheritance of personal data in the inevitable event of a user's death? After death, ownership of the deceased's personal data is a grey area. This can result in distress and inconvenience for the bereaved as they struggle to retrieve precious online artefacts. (3) What are the boundaries for the acceptable creation, ownership and management of online memorials which re-purpose inherited data, appropriate to UK cultural norms? We are already seeing spontaneous technology-based responses to death and loss emerging- e.g. - online memorials. Many are respectful and appropriate, yet some are not - and can cause further anguish to the bereaved as a result. There is a lack of research to establish boundaries of acceptability in this highly sensitive area.In this research, I will address the questions outlined above from a participatory perspective, collaborating with users, and with experts in law, psychology, sociology and social software. I will first establish what people want to happen to their data after they die, their preferences in expressing these choices, and how these choices should be acted upon. I will then examine how the bereaved choose to repurpose these digital artefacts, how this repurposing can assist in the grieving process, and the way in which these repurposed artefacts should be managed to protect the sensitivities of the bereaved. The work will be underpinned by a theoretical understanding of the bereavement process and empathetic social behaviour.
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Organisation Website: http://www.dundee.ac.uk