Communication media and the dead: from the Stone Age to Facebook

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This article argues that i) the presence of the dead within a society depends in part on available communication technologies, specifically speech, stone, sculpture, writing, printing, photography and phonography (including the mass media), and most recently the internet. ii) Each communication technology affords possibilities for the dead to construct and legitimate particular social groups and institutions - from the oral construction of kinship, to the megalithic legitimation of the territorial rights of chiefdoms, to the written word’s construction of world religions and nations, to the photographic and phonographic construction of celebrity-based neo-tribalism, and to the digital re-construction of family and friendship. iii) Historically, concerns about the dead have on a number of occasions aided the development of new communication technologies - the causal connection between the two can go both ways. The argument is based primarily on critical synthesis of existing research literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-232
Issue number3
Early online date15 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Internet
  • group identity
  • memory
  • ancestors
  • communication technology


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