From Bones to Bytes

Project Description

This project focuses on the politics and ethics of digital human remains – the data that we leave behind on the web as we pass away. Within the next three decades alone, approximately 2.7 billion people will die. As many of them will be internet and social media users, they will collectively leave behind an enormous volume of data. The question is what we, as a civilisation, choose to do with these data. Whose digital footprint should be saved and curated? And who is to pay for it? Do we have ethical responsibilities to the online dead? And do we have a duty to preserve personal data for future generation to learn from? The From Bones to Bytes project seeks to answer such questions using a combination of quantitative, qualitative and theoretical methodologies.

The project is led by Carl Öhman, doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford and member of the Digital Ethics Lab founded by Professor Luciano Floridi. The research is funded by a three years long grant from the Swedish Wallenberg Foundation (2017-2020), and has hitherto produced a series of publications:


Primary Researchers

Carl Öhman

Carl Öhman

PhD Fellow

Information, Communication and the Social Sciences

University of Oxford, England

Recent Publications

  • Öhman & Watson (accepted). Are the dead taking over Facebook? A big data approach to the future of online death. Big Data & Society.
  • Öhman, C. (Forthcoming). From Bones to Bytes: A new Chapter in the History of Death. In The 2018 Yearbook of the Digital Ethics Lab (Öhman & Watson ed.). Heidelberg: Springer
  • Öhman, C., Gorwa, R. & Floridi, L. (2019) Prayer-Bots and Religious Worship on Twitter: A Call for a Wider Research Agenda. Minds & Machines.
  • Öhman, C. & Floridi, L. (2018). An Ethical Framework for the Digital Afterlife Industry. Nature Human Behaviour.
  • Öhman, C. (2018). The Grand Challenges of Death in the 21st Century. Swissfuture, Magazin für Zukunftsmonitoring, (01 May). pp. 16-18. Luzern
  • Öhman, C. & Floridi, L. (2017). The Political Economy of Death in the Age of Information: A Critical Approach to the Digital Afterlife Industry. Minds and Machines.

Project Posts