Data Urns

What happens to our digital self and our data after death?

This question was the starting point for the speculative design project „Data Urns“ which was shown as part of the exhibition „Time Capsules – Narrations for Another Future“ at the Ars Electronica Festival 2019. Using design fiction methods, a device was imagined which is fed with personal data while still alive and from this generates a replica of the digital ego – the Data Urn. The electronic urn enables eternal existence as AI, posthuman communication with predetermined heirs, the expression of last wishes and the passing on of the digital heritage. 

To let the recipients dive into this reality, an immersive storytelling installation was designed. The visitors were gently motivated to place one of the three urns, which were located in the middle of the installation, on a designated spot. The 3D-printed urns, which were equipped with RFID chips, were recognized by a hidden reader and an accompanying audio was played. The audios represent three possible communication scenarios in which the visitors take on the role of heirs. By addressing visual, auditory and haptic perception a high degree of immersion is achieved.

The goal of this project is to initiate discursive thinking about our digital ego after death. It should expose uncertainties, hopes, plans or desires, show their characteristics and try to make them tradable and tangible. 

January–September 2019

Speculative Design,
Design Fiction