All the Ghosts in the Machine
Seen any ghosts on your smartphone lately? As we’re compelled to capture, store and share more and more of our personal information, there’s something we often forget. All that data doesn’t just disappear when our physical bodies shuffle off this mortal coil. If the concept of remaining socially active after you’re no longer breathing sounds crazy, you might want to get used to the idea. Digital afterlives are a natural consequence of the information age, a reality that barely anyone has prepared for – and that ‘anyone’ probably includes you.
Seen any ghosts on your smartphone lately?
As we’re compelled to capture, store and share more and more of our personal information, there’s something we often forget. All that data doesn’t just disappear when our physical bodies shuffle off this mortal coil. If the concept of remaining socially active after you’re no longer breathing sounds crazy, you might want to get used to the idea. Digital afterlives are a natural consequence of the information age, a reality that barely anyone has prepared for – and that ‘anyone’ probably includes you.
In All the Ghosts in the Machine, psychologist Elaine Kasket sounds a clarion call to everyone who’s never thought about death in the digital age. When someone’s hyperconnected, hyperpersonal digital footprint is transformed into their lasting legacy, she asks, who is helped, who is hurt, and who’s in charge? And why is now such a critical moment to take our heads out of the sand?
Weaving together personal, moving true stories and scientific research, All the Ghosts in the Machine takes you on a fascinating tour through the valley of the shadow of digital death. In the process, it will transform how you think about your life and your legacy, in a time when our technologies are tantalising us with fantasies of immortality.
‘As charming and touching as it is astute and insightful.’
Adam Alter, New York Times bestselling author of Irresistable and Drunk Tank Pink
‘I read this book with the sinking realisation that my favourite response to a problem – “worry about it later” – is not really an option . . . Dr Kasket, who writes with a pleasingly self-deprecating wit and a determination to give every side of an argument a fair hearing, is as comfortable exploring the philosophical implications of digital legacies as she is on the legal and scientific nitty-gritty . . . this a very useful book, even perhaps for people who have never been near a computer in their lives.’
Jake Kerridge, Sunday Telegraph
‘Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, there is no better guide to how social media re-shape our experience of death and loss. Digital natives and digital immigrants alike will love this book’
Tony Walter, Professor at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath
‘A thorough and much-needed interrogation of an issue which, quite literally, faces us all. Elaine Kasket explores the myriad consequences of dealing with the reams of personal data we leave behind online when we die. Through heart-rending family stories and expert testimony, All the Ghosts in the Machine reveals how the Wild West of the social media industry is grappling with (and in some cases actively exploiting) human mortality’
Geoff White, Investigative Journalist
‘Elaine Kasket offers a compelling deep dive into the complexities of the digital age and what happens to a person’s online life after their death – the impact which can often be devastating for bereaved families. All the Ghosts in the Machine makes you stop and think about how you would want your online assets to be managed after you die and what steps you might need to take to do so’
Sue Morris, Director of Bereavement Services, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA
‘Elaine Kasket has written a thought-provoking book that will help digital immigrants and digital natives alike to contemplate the psychosocial, legal, ethical and practical implications of being mortal in the digital age. In addition to expanding their vocabulary (e.g., learning about “boundary turbulence”) and gaining information about user policies that dictate access to their digital assets after their death, readers will benefit from Kasket’s ten general principles to guide their decision-making about going “old school” and/or “digital” in the quest for immortality’
Carla Sofka, co-editor of Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe
‘The gentle, subtle cover of this book belies the power within. This is a beautifully written engaging text that brims with stories. Whilst Elaine’s own tales are self-deprecating, they are also funny and illustrate how confused our world is about immortality. The book bridges research material and popular culture in a way that is accessible, amusing and challenging, all in one go… The book ends with useful practical suggestions about how to confront the realities of your own digital dust. It may not always be a comfortable read but it is certainly a good one. Buy it’
Maggi Savin-Baden, Professor of Education, University of Worcester
‘The book will be of interest to anyone who has used the web and will be valuable to both cyberpsychologists and social psychology researchers… The writing is top-notch, and although written for non-specialists, it is never dumbed down and firmly speaks the language of psychology. For book lovers of psychology or popular science, this style of writing will be a familiar mix of personal anecdote and empiricism, with academic citations only when needed. This sense of balance in writing is rare and hard to achieve but was flawless. Kasket writes from her perspective, using a witty and engaging style and draws on her own family experiences and career as a Counselling Psychologist in the UK. It is impossible to read the book and not be concerned about what your digital legacy might be.’
Simon Bignell, The Psychologist