Redesigning Deathcare Conference 2022 – accepting submissions

The inaugural Redesigning Deathcare Conference will hosted by the University of Melbourne on 27–29 October 2022, with in-person and online presentations.

We are now inviting expressions of interest that address the following theme. EOIs close 28 February. See the conference website for more detail about ways to participate.

How might we reimagine the future of deathcare?

‘Deathcare’ describes our total system for responding to death, from ageing and the end-of-life, through to body disposal and bereavement.

The acute threat posed by COVID-19 over the last two years has exacerbated deeper challenges to our contemporary models of deathcare, from climate change to an ageing population. Such forces are not simply threats, they also invite innovation and creativity.

Redesigning Deathcare invites contributions from diverse perspectives to collectively imagine and build a holistic system of deathcare. People today are presented with ever-expanding individual choice around the end-of-life, but are also forced to navigate complex, fragmented systems of care that fail to provide equitable and meaningful outcomes. As it stands, deathcare is artificially separated into silos, organised around different stages (dying, death, commemoration, etc.), different professions (medical clinicians, funeral directors, counsellors, etc.), and academic disciplines (medicine, anthropology, law, etc.).

The conference asks delegates to consider:

  • How do we remake our deathcare system so that it better meets community needs, not just today, but for future generations?
  • How do we bridge long-standing divides in how we imagine and manage the end-of-life?
  • How might contested views of the future be productively and equitably debated and resolved?
  • How are the future of the planet and the future of deathcare intertwined?

The program at Redesigning Deathcare is organised around four key challenges:

  • Demography
  • Environmental Crisis
  • Diversity & Justice
  • Technology

Expressions of interest close 28 February 2022. Registration and full submissions close 31 May 2022.

More details at redesigningdeathcare.org.


Encyclopedia of Cemetery Technology

The Encyclopedia of Cemetery Technology is a global map and directory of technologies that augment the experience of interacting with a cemetery. It was created by the DeathTech Research Team as part of the Future Cemetery project, based on a systematic review of academic, industry and popular publications about cemeteries and technology.

The Encyclopedia summarises the type and function of existing cemetery technologies. The major application categories are:

The Encyclopedia is now open to contributions.


Digital afterlife – how to deal with social media accounts when someone dies

Deciding what to do with a dead friend or relative’s online presence is complicated and time-consuming but there are shortcuts. There is no one-stop-shop or single method to memorialise or delete accounts. Some companies, including Google, are now deleting accounts after two years of inactivity but there is no consistency across platforms.

In this article, Dr Bjorn Nansen discusses how social media companies respond and the implications of their response.

Digital afterlife – how to deal with social media accounts when someone dies | Death and dying | The Guardian: Digital afterlife – how to deal with social media accounts when someone dies

Remembering and forgetting the dead

The dead are brought front of mind in many ways through our public rituals, festivals and ceremonies.

There’s China’s Hungry Ghost Festival, Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, Japan’s Obon Festival and of course, Halloween, which has its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain. Halloween was originally a time dedicated to warding off ghosts with costumes and remembering the dead – rather than collecting candy.

In this article, Professor Michael Arnold and Professor Tamara Kohn will discuss how the dead is remembered and forgotten through a cemetery: Remembering and forgetting the dead | Pursuit by The University of Melbourne (unimelb.edu.au)


Technology Of Death – Beyond Rest – Academics Probe Future Cemeteries

We’re talking about death technology and future cemeteries with Professor Michael Arnold.

With many cemeteries reaching capacity, and some environmental issues emerging around current ways we deal with our loved ones, we look at different burial options and what the future of death may look like.

This is an interesting chat with a researcher behind alternative forms of body disposal. Listen to the full conversation: TechnologyOfDeath – Beyond Rest – Academics Probe Future Cemeteries Transcript (buzzsprout.com)


Crypt-flation: the rising costs of graves and mausoleums in Melbourne | Victoria | The Guardian

Melburnians planning to bury a loved one in the city’s cemeteries are facing steep price hikes, with some grand memorial options surging up to 400% over the past decade.

Cemeteries across Australia, particularly in the inner city, are nearing capacity and those vying for a burial plot must fork out for prized pieces of real estate due to rising labour and construction costs.

Read the full article on the Guardian at: Crypt-flation: the rising costs of graves and mausoleums in Melbourne | Victoria | The Guardian


What makes burial in Melbourne so expensive?

The price tag for a spot in a cemetery or mausoleum has increased by almost 400 per cent over the past decade.

University of Melbourne graduate researcher Sam Holleran is part of the School of Culture and Communication’s Death Tech Research Team.

He joins Sammy J to discuss what drives these prices, and what kind of alternatives are trending.

Listen to the full discussion on ABC Melbourne at: What makes burial in Melbourne so expensive? – ABC Melbourne


Tamara Kohn at MPavillion

Death is often an uncomfortable topic, but as an inevitable part of life, it’s something that we should seek to find comfort with.

Bone is intrinsically linked to the concept of life and of death, and for this MPavilion event, Catherine Bell (artist) and Prof. Tamara Kohn (from the DeathTech Research team at the University of Melbourne), explored how we can transform bone from simply a material, into a concept that collectively connects us. Participants sculpted personal mementos  while sharing ideas about loss and grief, death and dying, and the many ways we cope with these processes that make us human. 

This event was developed as part of the M_Curators, an MPavilion program engaging young makers, doers and programmers.

(Photos by Casey Horsfield)


Cemetery technology provides new ways of memorialising the dead, but there are calls for caution

When Emma McGregor’s brother died 22 years ago, his death was sudden and unexpected.

“We had old photo albums of Matthew and we would look through those … to reflect on him,” she tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.

“As you can imagine, back then there was no technology around memorialisation at all.”

These days Ms. McGregor works for a company that makes memorial plaques for graves.

When she learnt about the existence of smart plaques, which can link to an online site commemorating the deceased, the idea instantly appealed.

“I thought, you know, it’s a great tool that will enable family and friends to be able to share memories and experiences about Matthew that we can reflect on at a time that we feel that we need to,” she says.

Now her company makes smart and traditional plaques.

She says when she arranged a smart plaque for her brother’s grave, at first the process of uploading content involved more grieving.

“It makes you miss him even more. But I think over time, it actually helps,” she says.

For example, during the 2020 and 2021 COVID lockdowns, when Ms McGregor couldn’t leave Victoria to visit her brother’s grave-site in New South Wales, she could visit virtually.

“I was able to log on and have a look at some of the videos and stories that we had on the app about Matthew, which does help at those difficult times through anniversaries and also through birthdays,” she says.

She says her mother has also taken some comfort from the technology, which allows users to upload photos and writing.

“On my brother’s anniversary, [my mum] sat at his grave-site and she wrote a little piece [online] to say how much she misses him.”

See the full articles on ABC News: Cemetery technology provides new ways of memorialising the dead, but there are calls for caution – ABC News


Why most Australians are choosing to be cremated after death – ABC Melbourne

Around 70 per cent of Australians are choosing cremation over traditional burial after death, says a leading anthropologist.

Dr Hannah Gould from Melbourne University’s Death Tech team joined David Astle on Evenings to explain why long-held traditions have been left behind in favour of more environmental and cost-friendly options.

Listen to the talk on ABC Melbourne here: Why most Australians are choosing to be cremated after death – ABC Melbourne


Where do we bury the dead when our cemeteries run out of space? – ABC Radio National

With a number of cemeteries across the country running out of room, it’s not just the living who are facing a housing crisis.

Australia’s annual death numbers are expected to double by 2050, leaving city planners to face a very grave question: what happens if we run out of room to bury our dead?

Listen the opinion from Hannah Gould on ABC Radio here: Where do we bury the dead when our cemeteries run out of space? – ABC Radio National


MMEETS COMFORT IN THE UNCOMFORTABLE

Death is often an uncomfortable topic, but as an inevitable part of life, it’s something that we should seek to find comfort with.

Bone is intrinsically linked to the concept of life and of death, and this event seeks to explore how we can transform it from simply a material, into a concept that collectively connects us.

Join us at MPavilion with artist Catherine Bell as she guides us to sculpt a personal memento to loss and grief, death and dying—and the ways we cope with it that fundamentally make us human.

Participants are also invited to engage in a reflective conversation addressing concepts around bone, and the topic of death, led in part by professor Tamara Kohn from the DeathTech team at The University of Melbourne. 

This event has been developed as part of the M_Curators, an MPavilion program engaging young makers, doers and programmers.

Audiences are advised that this event includes topics and content that may be confronting or distressing for some people


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