Dead People Are Liking Things On Facebook – PoM Recap #2

It has been more than a month since the KHK c:o/re hosted the PoM conference “Lifelikeness & beyond”. As this sizeable and, while still new, already renown conference produced many lively discussions in a creative interrogation of the dialog between life sciences and technology studies, we want to share our retrospective reflections on it through a series of focused posts. In two interviews, the artists shared with us insights into their work and creative process. Here, we reflect on the performance Dead people are like things on Facebook in conversation with Chris Dupuis.

What can we learn from the contingency of the community of the living and the non-living? What insights on contingency may transpire from embedding life and non-life within each other? How are factuality and fiction mediated by the imagination in the pursuit for new forms of collective action and of creating collectivities?

Entrance of the Super C during PoM

Dead People Are Liking Things On Facebook
by Chris Dupuis

What happens to our online self after we die? How might this material be used by others, and to what effect? Does this material serve as a valid means of remembering people? Do we remember them as they were or as they wanted to be?

Chris Dupuis asked himself these questions as part of his interactive lecture performance. In this interview, he provides insights into the background to his work and how he deals with death in social media.

Could you please introduce yourself?

Chris: I’m a Canadian writer, curator, and performance maker, based in Brussels.

What is your performance about?

Chris: “Dead People Are Liking Things On Facebook” is a lecture performance where I scroll through the profiles of Facebook friends who have died, discuss how I knew them, and what meaning can be taken from their online afterlives. The show was catalyzed in 2016 when I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed that my friend Will had “liked” Coca-Cola. In one way, this wasn’t strange, as Will actually liked Coca-Cola in real life. Will was a well-known Toronto DJ and queer club promoter in the early 2000s. He was famously sober, but thought everyone needed at least one bad habit, and so at some point, he decided Coke would be his vice. At the same time, it was strange that he had “liked” it in 2016 since at that point he had been dead for six years. How was this possible? The show started with me searching for the answer to that question.

What do you want to show with your performance?

Chris: I think a lot of the experience is up to the audience to interpret. I’m not really trying to “show” anything or make any specific claims. It’s more about raising a series of questions about mortality, social media, and the construction of identity for us to consider together.

What do you want to happen to your online presence after your death?

Chris: Despite having toured this show for several years and being preoccupied with these questions the whole time, I haven’t actually made any decisions about it. But assuming I have an average lifespan, the Internet and human connectivity will probably look radically different than it does now, so it’s difficult for me to imagine what I’ll be concerned with then.

How do you think social media platforms will deal with this type of situation in the future?

Chris: When all of these social media platforms and tech companies were starting out, they weren’t considering where they would be in twenty years. They were thinking about surviving the next six months. As they’ve gradually come to control so much of our lives and our public discourse, I think that some of them (though not all of them) have genuine concerns with how to navigate the future with the power they wield. At the same time, there’s also a question of how many of these companies will be around in the future or whether they will be replaced by AI versions that allow us to live online in very different ways, particularly as they may intersect with VR. What does seem clear is that there needs to be some level of government intervention to regulate these companies as they develop increasingly powerful tools.

Would you like to gain further impressions of the PoM conference in Aachen? Then take a look at our interview with Karla Zavala Barreda and Adriaan Odendaal as well as our recap of the conference days and the accompanying program of art and performances.

Photos by Jana Hambitzer

2 Comments on “Dead People Are Liking Things On Facebook – PoM Recap #2”

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