[Air-l] Thoughts wanted on online grief-community...

ren at aldermangroup.com ren at aldermangroup.com
Sun Apr 18 07:13:21 PDT 2004

There is a long history of memorialisaion in Virtual Worlds. 
Many VWs are game spaces where player-character and non-
player character death is a central part of the game. But 
given the size and longevity of these communities it is 
enviable that players die also. This raises the debate about 
whether a real life death should be memorialised in a 
fictive space, something that the VW community is divided 

Probably the most discussed case is that of Karyn in the VW 
LegendMUD. Here someone created the character of a player 
Karyn; that played a character in the VW – became an 
important person in the community, made strong friendships 
with people around the world etc. The person then ‘killed’ 
Karyn, not simply by stopping playing the game but creating 
an announcement supposedly from Karyn’s parents, linking the 
death to a supposed actual car crash etc. 

The initial reaction (when Karyn was supposed to be an 
actual person) is most eloquently summed up in Raph Koster’s 
piece About a Tree: www.legendmud.org/raph/gaming/essay1.html

A few years later the documentary filmmaker started to 
investigate the incident and revealed that it was a hoax: 

Which sparked a long second round of discussion on the mail 
list MUD-DEV: 

The two levels of argument are: 
- if Karyn was a real person, is it right to create a 
memorial in a Virtual Space, especially one that is fictive. 
- If Karyn was not a real person, is it right..

Many people argue yes to both on the grounds the community 
suffered a loss and as this was a genuine feeling in the 
community then it is fitting to create a memorial. 

While this is a complex case as it deals with issues such as 
the identity of people and spaces, I think that it 
highlights a lot of factors that come into play when we look 
at memorials in virtual spaces such as VWs or Web sites. 
Also of course as VWs grow in popularity and complexity the 
type of memorial that can be created gets ever more 

There are of course many examples of VWs where people have 
died IRL and there have been elaborate funeral celebrations 


PS not sure of the quality of this piece, but there are 
quite a few links: 

PPS I wrote a very short thing on TerraNova about VWs / 
Games as sacred spaces: 

-----Original Message-----
Behalf Of Tasha Buch
Sent: 18 April 2004 13:50
To: air-l at aoir.org
Subject: [Air-l] Thoughts wanted on online grief-community...
Importance: High

Dear subscribers on AIR-1:

I am working on my thesis project which concerns a case 
study in a Danish virtual grief-community called Mindet.dk 
[English: The Memorial]. This community is a possibility for 
bereaved to meet other people who have lost a beloved one. 
The website contains functions as an official guestbook, 
memorials, lighting candles and private fora.

In our contemporary society death and grief is experienced 
as taboo, when these themes becomes private, personal 
experience. At the same time, when it comes to death in the 
media there is almost no limit for exploring this private 
subject. I undertake a theoretical exploration of the ideas 
of community, death and griefing in our society, together 
with an empirical study of community on Mindet.dk in order 
to find out if the Internet can be a new space to fulfill a 
missing function in our society.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has 
experience or interesting thoughts about what social aspects 
(positive, negative aswell as
paradoxical) the Internet can contribute to such a private 
theme as death and grief.


Tasha Buch

Tasha Buch
Graduate Student
Design, Media and Communication Program
IT-University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Email: tabu at itu.dk

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