This discussion is based upon research being undertaken in Computing and Information Systems and the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne. The growing use of software applications in the home, the workplace, and in public places has resulted in the increased production and use of personal digital files. These digital files may take the form of emails sent to colleagues, photos of family and friends taken on a camera or smartphone, music downloaded from a number of different services, or videos taken at weddings or birthday parties. In this environment of increased data production and usage, unavoidable questions arise as to what happens to these files when a person dies. We will address this question in regards to a broad spectrum of digital media types and services with a particular emphasis on describing the current ownership and privacy issues (key to understanding how digital files may be storied or bequeathed to another person). There is, in general, a lack of understanding about the rights individuals have over the digital files they buy or produce that has implications in the context of death.
An emerging approach to managing digital legacies are ‘personal digital archives’.
Personal digital archives and personal data – the data relating to an individual’s life – has until recently been neglected in the debates and practices about archiving (so, for example, it is only in recent times that online companies have provided facilities to download personal data for local storage and safekeeping). We will discuss some of the emerging trends and problems with digital legacies and personal digital archives in the group.