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Aric Putnam


Facebook and other social networking technologies are become vastly powerful and expansive social forces that are exerting an influence on corpses, the dead, and death communications. Since its invention in 2004, millions of users of Facebook have died, leaving durable profiles subject to the site’s changing regulatory policies and socially present for the network’s living users as well. Because of their ability to enmesh, mutate, and interact with the social interactions of the living—as well as their durability as a site of continuing bonds—Facebook profiles retain social agency consistent with the theories of agency of Alfred Gell (1998) and Bruno Latour (2005). Close textual examination of the styles of communication, the durability of communication over time, the profile layout and composition, and the continuing nature of social contexts and content of the pages of dead users review that living users memorialize and grant social agency and distributed personhood to the profiles—creating a new sense of social agency for Facebook profiles whether living or dead, and the possibility of a virtual social afterlife.


Readers: Kelly Berg, Karyl Daughters, Terence Check

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