Death & grief

in the digital age

This project aims to explore our digital legacy as objects of memory in the process of grieving by looking at how they are perceived in comparison to traditional tangible objects and how they are preserved.



Aline Jarneau


Dr. Mafalda Moreira

Where and when 

This research started in March 2020 at The Glasgow School of Art in the context of my Master of Design Innovation thesis under the supervision of Dr. Mafalda Moreira.


My interest in the topic of death and grief was triggered by a volunteering experience during COVID-19. As a caregiver in a geriatric hospital stormed by a pandemic, witnessing patients go was the most predominant experience I have had with death so far.

Every morning started with the sight of new empty beds and grieving relatives lining in the corridor to sign papers and collect belongings. 

Although this was the end for the hospital, for the patient's loved ones, this was the start of a journey through grief, pain and sorrow.


As this research on a sensitive topic involves a vulnerable group, the researcher is committed to abide by The Glasgow School of Art's ethics policy and is being under the supervision of Dr. Mafalda Moreira as well as Dr. Madeleine Sclater from the GSA's Ethics committee to ensure the wellbeing of all the parties involved.

The Glasgow School of Art Ethics Committee  

Dr. Madeleine Sclater

This first stage of research consists of a literature review on death, grief and the digital age, as well as 3 interviews with experts from the French organization Association Empreintes

Empreintes is dedicated to providing support to grievers through a helpline and with the help of support groups. The organization insists on the importance of not pathologizing grief - as grief on its own is a natural reaction to loss - and denies any form of hierarchy of grief. 

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Second-loss anxiety (Basset, 2019)

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Baker, J. E. (2001). Mourning and the Transformation of Object Relationships : Evidence for the Importance of Internal Attachement. Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Hospital.

Basset, D. (19, 03 18). We need Better Tools for the Digital Afterlife. Accessed on 19/05/2020, on Fast Company: afterlife


Freud, S. (1918). Mourning and Melancholia. Internationale Zeitschrift für Ärztliche Psychoanalyse.

Hamill, M. (2017, 07 01). Thanatechnology : Dying in the Digital Age. Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychology. Accessed on 20/05/2020, on summer-2017/thanatechnology-dying-in-the-digital-age

Sas, C., & Coman, A. (2016, 08). Designing personal grief rituals: an analysis of symbolic objects and actions. Death Studies. DOI:10.1080/07481187.2016.1188868

Sofka , C., & Noppe Cupit, I. (2012). Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Sursache, M. (2015, 10 23). Journey to Digital Immortality. Accessed on 23/05/2020, on Medium: immortality-33fcbd79949

This study is now transitioning to a secondary phase consisting of a participative research to better understand people's relationship to objects in the process of grieving and to identify the potential impact of digital media on this process.

If you are interested in taking part in this study, please email me at or fill in the form below.

What will happen ? 

Participants will virtually meet the researcher through Skype. 

The researcher will give the possibility to participants to bring/show/talk about an element (or several elements) that they

keep in memory of the person they have lost. 

Your wellbeing is my priority. Please only participate if you feel ready to open up about the very difficult experience you have been through. And it's okay if you're not! Keep in mind that you can seek support from organizations and professionals wherever you are who can accompany you in this difficult time. 

Please remember that you are always free to share what you want to share only and avoid any subject that you do not feel comfortable with during the interview. 

I want to participate

Any information you will share in this form is strictly confidential and will only be accessible to the researcher Aline Jarneau.