a work per day (5): Audrey Samson investigates… what if our on-line data survive us? “NE.ME.QUITTES.PAS”a work per day (5): Audrey Samson investigates… what if our on-line data survive us? “NE.ME.QUITTES.PAS”

a work per day (5): Audrey Samson investigates… what if our on-line data survive us? “NE.ME.QUITTES.PAS”


– Audrey Samson


[video documentation…]

ne.me.quittes.pas, site view @ WMC_e5 (2014.10)
ne.me.quittes.pas, sketch for site display @ WMC_e5 (2014.10) / Audrey Samson

ne.me.quittes.pas is an installation displaying digital data funerals. It is based on interviews that were conducted with participants on the subject of digital death, and how they imagined the afterlife of their data. The participants selected files they wish to permanently delete. The files were transferred to USB sticks which were then placed in highly corrosive acid at the bio-chemistry lab of the City University of Hong Kong. Once the IC chips containing the data were irremediably corroded, the remnants were collected like ashes. These corroded chips are exhibited in ‘urns’ in juxtaposition with the interview material. A video documentation of the degradation ritual is also displayed.



ne.me.quittes.pas / site view @ WMC_e5
ne.me.quittes.pas / site view @ WMC_e5


‘Digital death’ is a growing concern as more and more data becomes digital including personal data and archives. It refers to the issues surrounding data ownership and rights after death. In recent years, numerous start-ups are adressing the issue as well as megopolies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have a large number of clients that have deceased.[1] Families and friends start making requests: for the data to be erased, handed over, hidden, or partially shared. These companies have consequently developed policies for what happens after their clients die.[2] Facebook has a profile memorialisation option while Twitter will discontinue the account. Ik R.I.P. was a platform developed in 2009 as a reflection upon this then ‘new problem’.[3] It enabled users of the Mediamatic site to draft a sort of digital will of their Mediamatic profile. More recently companies like Perpetu based in Hong Kong is concerned with handling your digital legacy after you die, a sort of digital executor of your social networking life.[4] LIVESON is a platform that proposes to continue your Twitter presence after you die based on your previous behaviour (with AI).[5] Eterni.me goes a step further and anticipates to collect “almost everything that you create during your lifetime” to then generate an avatar that emulates the deceased and acts as an interface for loved ones to gain access to this database of a lifetime. A host of companies offer services to safeguard passwords to digital data and distribution to the appointed person after death (Legacy Locker, Entrustnet, Digizeker). Some services include the passing on of messages upon death (Deathswitch). There are also a plethora of memorial platforms (Life.Vu, Forever Missed.com, Legacy.com, Tributes.com, Remembered.com, iLasting.com, Last Memories.com). Mostly, efforts are being made to think of ways to keep access to data alive after a person dies, in some cases even a simulation of the deceased.

There is very little said, however, about erasure. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger addresses the issues of data privacy that arise with digital archiving in ‘Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age’. The lack of context inherent to digital information for example can come back to haunt people later, they may loose a job over an unsavory picture posted 10 years earlier, or be denied access to a country. Many of the initiatives that are thinking about digital death are concerned with data privacy issues, the political and social implications of lingering data.[6] Who should have rights over a person’s data after they die for example. There is another aspect to digital death that Mayer-Schönberger points to, that is that forgetting is paramount, a built-in function of the brain, not a defect, that enables it to function properly.[7] It would appear that a recent study at the University of Basel shows that the brain actively erases information and that mental illness could arise should that process be disrupted.[8] Though we might perceive our memory as failing, it would seem that selective retention is how it is meant to work. The question then becomes, with the advent of digital technology, and cheap, plentiful storage devices, how is this nearly limitless archiving affecting our need to forget?

ne.me.quittes.pas begins to adress a very underconsidered and important part of digital archiving ubiquity: the erasure of digital data. As big data sets are constantly amassed the materiality of data and the question of its erasure is no longer an issue solely related to digital death and mourning but also to privacy, data ownership, surveillance, cyberbullying, etc. The right to erase and/or forget becomes a political gesture that attempts to surpass datafication. ne.me.quittes.pas proposes a digital data funeral in which data is physically degraded, leaving no readable trace, only empty casings. What is already lost in the cloud is out of our control, it is therefore a poetic gesture, a symbolic act, and a mourning ritual. (Audrey Samson)


[1] By the end of 2012 Entrustnet calculates that number to be 3 million on Facebook. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/death-facebook-dead-profiles_n_2245397.html. See XKCD for a projection of future numbers: https://what-if.xkcd.com/69/.

[2] See Twitter’s policy adopted in 2010: http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/2010/08/twitter-adopts-policy-for-deceased-users/, and Facebook: http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/2012/02/what-happens-to-your-facebook-account-when-you-die/.

[3] Ik R.I.P.: http://www.mediamatic.net/73602/en/www-ikrip-nl.

[4] Perpetu: https://perpetu.co/.

[5] LIVESON: http://liveson.org/connect.php.

[6] See The Digital Beyond blog (http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/), Passare (http://www.passare.com/how-manage-your-digital-assets-0), Digital Death (http://www.digitaldeath.eu/), My Digital FootPrint (http://www.mydigitalfootprint.com/), Digital Dust blog (http://digital-era-death-eng.blogspot.co.il/), for digital data issues or, Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What’s Your Legacy? (New Riders Press, 2011) by Evan Carroll.

[7] Viktor Mayer-Schönberger. Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. Princeton University Press, 2009.

[8]Cell, “A plastic nervous system requires the ability not only to acquire and store but also to forget.” Volume 156, Issue 6, 13 March 2014, Pages 1153–1166


ne.me.quittes.pas (2014, Audrey Samson)

「數碼死亡」日漸受到關注,因為數據電子化– 無論是個人資料和檔案– 都成主導趨勢。這情況引發出個人「死後」電子數據的所有權的問題。不單是初創企業, 甚至巨無霸Facebook,Google和Twitter等近年來都緊釘著這些問題尋找解決方案。社交網站如Facebook和Twitter有大量已經過身的用戶。他們的家人和朋友開始提出要求:刪除,移交,隱藏,或部分共用相關資料。這些公司也因此制定他們的客戶過身後的對策。如Facebook就有一個profile memorialisation(個人資料紀念存案)的選項,而Twitter將終止該等帳戶。lk R.I.P. 是一個因應這個「新問題」於2009年開發的平臺。它讓Mediamatic網站的用戶,起草他們的電子遺願。最近不少公司, 例如:總部設在香港的Perpetu, 特別關注怎樣處理人死後的電字遺產。LIVESON是一個建議(使用人工智慧)根據你生前的行為延續在Twitter的生命的平臺。Eterni.me更走前了一步∶它蒐集「你的一生中創造的所有東西」,然後虛擬一個模擬死者的化身,並為親人提供一個數據庫。主機公司以密碼保障電子數據,並分發死者給指定的人(Legacy Locker, Entrustnet, Digizeker)。有些服務包括通知死亡的消息(Deathswitch)。像類似的紀念平臺還有Life.Vu,永遠Missed.com,Legacy.com,Tributes.com,Remembered.com,iLasting.com及Memories.com 等。大多數情況下,會用盡辦法去保護電子數據,在某些情況下甚至模擬死者。但什少提刪除。Viktor Mayer-Schönberger提出了「刪除電子存檔」時有關隱私的問題:「遺忘在電子時代的美德」。缺乏上下文電子資訊,有機會為人帶來後患的,例如:他們因一張10年前張貼的照而失去工作,或者被拒絕進入的某個國家。許多人關心電子死亡帶來數據隱私問題、及對於政治和社會影響。例如:誰有權控制人死後的個人資料?另一個Mayer-Schönberger提出的問題是忘卻是最重要的,大腦的內置功能,沒有故障,需要能夠正常運作最近在巴塞爾大學的一項研表明,大腦積極擦除資訊和精神疾病可能出現的應是過程被打亂。雖然我們可能會覺得我們的記憶是消失的,它似乎是有選擇性的保留某些記憶。那麼問題就變成,隨著電子技術充足的存儲設備的出現,而且價格便宜,無限的存檔如何影響我們需要忘記?

《ne.me.quittes.pas》關注有關電子存檔十分重要的部分:刪除數字數據。隨著大數據集不斷積累,數據的重要性和刪除的問題,不再只與數碼死亡和哀悼有關的問題,而關係到私隱,數據所有權,監控,網絡欺淩等。刪除及/或忘記的權利變成一種試圖超越datafication的政治姿態。《ne.me.quittes.pas》提出了一種數字數據葬禮,在其中數據被實體破壞, 不留可讀的痕跡,只餘空洞的外殼。 事情已經超出我們的控制,因此,這是一個充滿詩意的姿態,一個象徵性的行為,和哀悼儀式。(Audrey Samson)

About Audrey SAMSON

Audrey Samson
Audrey Samson

Audrey Samson is an artist and researcher currently based in Hong Kong. She holds a BFA Major in Design Art from Concordia University (Canada), an M.A. in Media Design from the Piet Zwart Institute (The Netherlands), and is currently a PhD researcher at the City University of Hong Kong. She has taught at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Willem de Kooning Academy in The Netherlands, and set up and managed the Digital Art Lab at the Centrum voor Kunst en Cultuur. She co-founded Roger10-4 together with Sabrina Basten, a duo of women that make/break discarded electronics to build wearable electromagnetic field ‘sniffers’. She is also member of genderchangers; a collective of women which promote the exchange of technical skills between women; and a member of Aether9, a collective which explores the dramaturgical possibilities of remote real-time storytelling. She routinely gives workshops on subjects such as wearables, FLOSS, and networked performance.

Audrey Samson 藝術家、研究員,現居香港。於加拿大康克迪亞大學取得藝術學士,專修設計藝術,又於荷蘭的Piet Zwart Institute取得媒體設計碩士。現為香港城市大學新媒體學博士候選人。曾於荷蘭Gerrit Rietveld學院及Willem de Kooning學院任教。創立及管理Centrum voor Kunst en Cultuur 內的數碼藝術實驗室。又與Sabrina Basten共同創立「Roger10-4」二人組,生產電子廢物,也分解被扔掉的電子物品以製作可穿戴的含電磁場的「嗅探器」。Samson亦是「genderchangers」和「Aether9」成員之一。前者是一個推動女性之間交換技術的組織,後者則探討遙距即時式說故事的戲劇理論可能。她亦定期舉辦有關可穿戴的電子衣裝、「FLOSS」及網絡表演的工作坊。


The ne.me.quittes.pas project is indebted to  Prof. Michael H W LAM and Sharon Chiu from the Department of Biology and Chemistry at CityU, for their expertise and generous assistance and facilitation in conducting the experiments.


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