The month of Shawwal has been a symmetry of life and death for our family, bracketed by the passing of loved ones and punctuated by the arrival of new lives.
Twenty eight days ago, on the bright, crisp Autumn morning of Eid-ul-Fitr, we lost our beautiful baby sister Aisha after a long and debilitating illness…just three days ago, a distant cousin and my uncle Jawaid died suddenly and unexpectedly.
However, amidst our sorrow, I became an uncle myself with the arrival of my cousin Nadia‘s newborn son, Idris,…only days later, my youngest cousin Yousef was born.
Last Friday, Boing Boing posted a piece on networked tombstones; though ostensibly a morbid fad, the concept is actually quite sensitively articulated. Each headstone carries a device connected to an online memorial, containing genealogical information, a Facebook profile and a family tree. I find this to be a wonderful concept. Cemeteries are not simple places, but densely layered records of human history – overlapping stories of lives, times, places and people that are our shared heritage. To make available the stories of those lost is a fitting monument to a life and also the basis for a locative medium that speaks to us all.
A few months ago, I worked with students of IDII on digital identity, exploring the relationships between people, places and time. Many of the projects explored how we relate to places bustling with life and activity – notably cities and airports. To paraphrase James T. Kirk, if how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life then the places where our lives come to rest should be as significant a part of our digital identity as where our lives were lived.
Very true… having recently decided to piece together precious fragments of my family history (and found it to be a daunting task), I know I would value something like this.