Call for Submissions
Position Papers






Workshop Description

The ways in which people use technology in practices concerning mortality, dying, and death are areas of HCI research which have historically received little attention. This lack of scholarly research is precipitated by both practical and theoretical problems emerging in the HCI community and computer use at large. For example, families have begun to grapple with issues of how to distribute digital assets upon the death of a loved one, leading to "digital wills." Social networking tools contain entries for people who are no longer alive, and often fail to provide a clear way of handling this situation. From early adulthood onward, people find themselves confronted with their own mortality, and use technologies to accommodate, defy, or even attempt to circumvent their own deaths, by living on through some digital legacy. Despite the wide-ranging issues implicit in these practices and, more broadly, the intersection of death and computing technology, the HCI community has not begun to seriously address this area to date.

This workshop, which intends to break new ground by bringing together, for the first time, researchers and practitioners interested in the interfaces between end-of-life practices and technology. Because these issues cut across the entire span of work in human-computer interaction, practitioners and researchers in all areas of HCI can benefit from considering these issues in this forum.



Conceptualizing the design space surrounding end-of-life practice requires an interdisciplinary, open-minded, and culturally sensitive approach. This workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to address the following themes:

  • Technology & Design: Computationally enhanced artifacts which help groups of people to share, remember, and relate to the deceased or dying. Examples include technology heirlooms, online memorials, electronic gravestones/memorials/shrines, or traditional desktop software which addresses mortality, death, and dying in unique or novel ways.

  • Social Practices: Obtaining a better understanding of how technology and other artifacts are appropriated, used, discarded, or incorporated into social practices surrounding death. Topics in this theme may include ethnographic analyses of end-of-life issues, sociological models of practice, culture-specific practices, or other forms of empirical qualitative research focused on the intersection of mortality, dying, death, and technology (e.g., interviews, questionnaires, surveys).

  • Humanities and Cultural Studies: Insights related to mortality, dying, and death as understood in fields traditionally underrepresented in HCI (including, but certainly not limited to: archaeology, religion, anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, or the arts). Understanding how to incorporate these themes into research or design practice will be a major component of this workshop.

  • Research Methodology and Evaluation: Discussions of how to conduct thanatosensitive research (that is, research is sensitive to issues of dying, death, and mortality). Topics of interest include (but are not limited to): epistemological approaches, empirical methods, conceptual or theoretical frameworks, analysis procedures, and standards and metrics for evaluation of systems. Discussions will also include how to conduct ethical and respectful research, either with respect to a particular methodology/setting, or more generally across contexts.


Call for Submissions

Participants are requested to submit a 2-4 page position paper in the HCI Archive format. Papers will be accepted based on originality and quality, and will represent a spectrum of viewpoints. Submissions from underrepresented disciplines in the HCI community will be particularly welcome (e.g., archaeology, religion, anthropology, literature, philosophy, or the arts). At least one author must register for and attend the workshop, in addition to registering for at least one day of the conference.

Submissions should be sent as an email attachment in PDF or Microsoft Word format to by January 6th, 2010.



9-10:30amWorkshop madness: Participants will each present their work in 5 minutes or less, with time for 1-2 questions following each presentation. Please include in your presentation:
  • The topic of your work
  • A description of how you came across the topic
  • Your disciplinary background/methodological approach to the topic
  • The most important or interesting aspect of your work that you'd like to highlight
  • Topics you'd like to discuss during the workshop. These could be (among other things!) challenges, inspirations, concerns, or opportunities in this space.
11am-12pmTopic brainstorming and group discussions: As a large group we will collect together the discussion topics and ideas that emerged from the presentations. We'll then break into smaller groups to talk further about the concepts, relationships, or themes within these topics. Finally we'll regroup to create a list of three topics for discussion in the afternoon.
12-2pmLunch. We will make reservations at a local restaurant for all participants. We'll assume you will be joining us unless otherwise notified. Please email Mike Massimi ( if you will not be attending the lunch, or if you have suggestions/dietary needs.
2-4pmTopic discussion groups: We will split into three subgroups to discuss the topics identified during the morning's brainstorming. Each group will be asked to participate in some creative brainstorming activities for their topic, and then present their findings to the group.
4:30-6pmReflection on discussion groups and wrap-up: We'll reconvene as a large group to discuss the results of the topical subgroups, and conclude with a group discussion of the major results of the day. We'll also discuss the future of this area as a research and design community, and identify resources for continued communication and community-building.


Position Papers

You can download all submissions as a single zip file, or each submission individually below.



Michael Massimi is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. His work investigates the opportunities and challenges associated with issues of mortality, dying, and death in computing, and the design of thanatosensitive devices addressing these issues. He received his Master's degree from the University of Toronto and his Bachelor's degree from The College of New Jersey, both in computer science.

William Odom is a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. With a background spanning anthropology, design and informatics, he has a keen interest in exploring what it might mean to design and live with more enduring technologies in the context of everyday life. Most recently his work has explored how objects and technologies support.and in some cases complicate the peculiar ways in which we maintain relationships with the dead.

David Kirk is a Lecturer of Human Computer Interaction in the Mixed Reality Lab, School of Computer Science, at the University of Nottingham. A psychologist by background he has researched user practices of archiving and storage of both digital and physical artefacts in the home and is currently extending this research to explore the design, ethics and human values of "technology heirlooms", technologies designed to outlive their owners which become imbued with sentiment and reminiscent value.

Richard Banks is a senior Interaction Designer at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK. A graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, Richard spent a decade working on the interface design of a broad set of Microsoft's products before joining the research division in 2006. Since then he has collaborated closely with Richard Harper and Abigail Sellen in the Socio-Digital Systems group, developing a wide variety of insights and solutions surrounding technology use in the home.