Page 1

Dominion of Dead














Abstract “The list of contacts in my smartphone’s address book has over a thousand entries. This is the result of an accumulation of almost two decades of collecting. It covers five cities, four schools, and three jobs. As I begin tapping the name of one entry in my smartphone, I get suggested several others names. Maybe a former high school friend, though we no longer talk after graduation. Or the number of a mechanic, even though I no longer have a car since I have move to Cambridge. There are some names I just can’t situate or how we became acquaintance. And, sometimes..., I get shown the name of someone that is no longer with us. I might take a moment to erase one or more of these entries from my past life. But not the ones of the departed. Those I keep.”

So I asked, how will the the dominion of the dead change in the digital age?


Death Culture | Memory | Digital | Cemetery | Columbarium |

Intro A life or death crisis have enter the Dominion of the Dead. In 2016, the Boston Globe release a report by the title of “is the cemetery dead? [3.01] In the news article they declared that necropolis are confronting in contemporary a decline in relevance. The article as put forward as an example, the Mount Auburn Cemetery located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has significantly reported a decrease of operation in terms of burial practices and visits for mourning [3.01]. The excuse for this decline is due to the increasing popularity of cremation, which has made the necropolis no longer the home for storing remains. While concurrently, the development of digital technology has changed the way that we mourn and grieve. Social media companies, such as Facebook and Instagram have taken a role in the act of mourning as well, a role which before was predominantly done in the dominion of dead. To add to that, memory prosthetics like the smartphone has allowed the memory of the deceased to enter the domain of the living. These memories have



portable because




dependant of smartphones in our daily life, which allow us to now access all the memories from our past at all times. cultural



However, this








cremation has brought difficult consequences in the way that we perform the “work of mourning” [1.05] [1.07]. Take for example a news article [3.02], published by BusinessInsider in 2015, where it explains the difficult for Tim Cook to erase the phone number of Steve Jobs, years after his departure in 2011. Even though, he is aware that every time that he searches for anyone with a similar name in his smartphone contact list, Job’s name will be recommended and Cook will have to confront his tragic no longer present. Moments like these, have put into question what is the role of the dominion of the dead in contemporary times. Fortunately, there has been some new implementation in the infrastructure of the dominion of the dead. Even though they are very small implementation to be able to address the contemporary dilemma as to what is the role and what is the future of the dominion of the dead, I believe by putting them forward in this paper, we can start the conversation.

This survey will be disseminated into a series of cases. Starting with a western historical understanding of how the infrastructure, political climate, and technologies of the dominion of the death has evolved throughout time - with the support of Ariès Philippe [1.01][1.02], a French medievalist and historian. Most prominent for his works regarding the change in western attitudes towards death -. Follow by a series of cases of new technologies that have started to be implemented in the dominion of the dead. Finally, concluding with a reflection upon the ever-changing space of the dominion of the dead, and if perhaps this new emerging technology could give hope that there

should still be a place where we as a community can come together and acknowledge our ancestors.

History Grave Fields Prehistoric cemetery, before the Bronze Age, were known to be only designated location, today we refer to them as “Grave Fields”. They




structures, buildings, or individual grave markers such as tombstones. Instead,


specific locations

were spread by word of mouth and demarcated by trees or pieces of stones, lay in a symbolic pattern. As Ariès Philippe describes, “The ceremonious burial of the dead in graves marked by a cairn, a tree, or a tall rock, formed perhaps the first permanent meeting place for the living….”[1.01]. Typically, the stones were of large dimension and layout in a vertical orientation. They did not pay homage to any individual as aforementioned, instead they establish an ambiguous zone for the usage and meeting point for burial practices and remembrance. Hypothesis has emerged that Grave Fields are not only practiced by humans, but there are also speculation that they are found among other species. For example, it has been long debated if elephants share this similar tradition. Although many arguments has come to dispelled as to why a large

amount of elephant remain have been found together many times throughout the globe in the same location, however, it is been proven that elephant do interact with elephant’s remains which they come across during journeys [2.01]. Another important practice exhibited at these points but only known to humans was the ritual of cremation or the burning until ashes of the bodies. The reason which it is important to mention this fact is that this ritual will be constantly be accepted or rejected by society throughout history [2.02]. Tame Death Moving



the bronze age and until the Mid-Eighteenth Century, we encounter the emergence of Catacombs, Charnel Houses, Crypts, and Columbariums. One could argue that these new infrastructures were similar to Grave fields, but instead of being in remote location, they were locate inside the cities domain, either above ground in buildings or underground in vault-like structures. As well as Grave Fields, they did not extensively demarcated individuals but were a location to store the remains of civilians. Take for example “Charnel Houses”, buildings which were designed to store the remain of bodies which were exhumed from burial sites, because of lack of space in cities or environments. They did not have any method to specifically demarcated as to which

remains belong to which specific individual, thus they share that similarity with Grave Fields by it lack of demarcations. Instead, bones were reorganized by type. Therefore, tibias with tibias, skulls with skulls, coxa with coxa, and so on. As a result, we can find that with the collection of bones, elaborated design emerge as either space dividers or ornaments for the Charnel House. A key element to understand out of this period is that the idea that a corpse needed to be forever identify was not significant to everyone, as the belief of the eternal soul was very prevalent, therefore the body was only considered as a transitional vessel. However, this notion will change.

Death as Disease During the mid-eighteenth century, a series of events began to change the infrastructure of the dominion of the dead. Before this point, death was a tame notion [1.02]. Society was very comfortable with the sight of death. ​“For more than a thousand years people had been perfectly adapted to this promiscuity between the living and the dead” ​according to Ariès Philippe, death was seen as a natural process of life and activities surrounding the dominion of the dead were common. Citizen visited places of burial or catacomb as normal activities[2.03]. However, this relationship of the tamed of death will change during the scientific

revolution by the “enlightened”, - an European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition - which put forward two paradoxically events accordingly to Foucault [2.03], which will change forever the dominion of the dead. Foucault describes during his description of the different heterotopias found in the world to architects[2.03]. That the enlightened brought forward a range of studies which attempted to find the cause for a series of disease occurring during this period of time known as the “Black Plagues”. Some cases attempted to illustrate the impact from being near to dominions of dead, this proximity greatly impacted the likeliness to becoming sick. A clear example was the famous mapping exercise done by John Snow, a British physician, which determined that water contamination was the cause for Cholera. At this moment dead was starting to become a synonym for illness, or “death as a disease”[2.03]. Another case was the Holy Innocents' Cemetery in Paris, which started as a place which was very welcome to the citizen of Paris, as notated by Ariès Philippe: [1.02]

“The word cimetiére denoted a burial place but also a place of asylum, or sanctuary. These spaces also became a resting place for the elderly, a playground for children, a meeting spot for lovers and a place to conduct business as well as to dance, gamble and socialise – a highly heterogeneous, if not heterotopian, place that would eventually be interrogated by ‘enlightened’ concerns and replaced by utopian designs”

This interrogation by the enlightened which deem the cemetery as an unhealthy place, plus in top of that, a series of reports of excruciating smells which were described by nearby residents, put the Holy Innocents' Cemetery at risk and made it a very

unwelcoming place for Parisian. The smells were due to the over crowness of the cemetery, which no longer was able to fully decompose the cadaver properly. [2.03] The result was the exhumed of it’s occupant and the exile to the outskirts of the city. What is significant that Foucault claim as the second event about this period - which will play a huge role in the conception of the design of these new places located in the outskirt of the city - was that the enlightened also brought as a consequences the “doubness of afterlife” arise from atheism ideologies: [2.03]

“in an era when people believed in the immortality of the soul, there was no special importance given to mortal remains. Corpses lost any sense of individuality and the space became a pleasure and leisure ground for the living. As we shall see, it is only with a growing atheism in the West and the bourgeois appropriation of the cemetery that we find the gradual establishment of a ‘cult of the dead’ and a deep, sentimental concern for the corpse.”

As a result, the enlightened brought forward our notion of death as an illness but as well brought forward the idea that the corpse is perhaps our last remain in this world, thus it needed to identify forever. These two events will shape the design of the new cemetery found in the outskirts of the cities. Now, each individual corpse will own a plot of land for eternity to decompose and be identify forever for future generations. No longer only the

aristocrats had this privilege. And with this, came the used of religious iconography, which will begin to occupate the dominion of the dead as well. Cemeteries were now cover with religious tomb heads, decoration statues, tombs vaults. The cemetery started to become a museum of memory. A landscape of history.

First Public Park The next era of the dominion of the dead will take place in the United States during the earlier Nineteenth Century. The cemeteries in the United States will become the only open land space for people to enjoy their days, the reason for this was due to the increasing densification of cities, where no space was allocated for nature or open public areas. As a result, the cemetery became the only open space land for people to escape the busy city life. At this moment, designer John Claudius Loudon, a Scottish botanist, and landscape architect, will conceive a manual for the new design of cemetery which will eventually be recognized as the first “American Public Parks”. His manual titled “On the Laying out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries: and on the Improvement of Churchyards” [1.10] will set out a series of strategies which will allow for the creation of a Picturesque Park style. Meandering roads with irregular plot dimensions and locations will create a pleasurable experience of escapism from the

city. Although the design will later be recognized as an instrument for the assimilation of classes and demographics by its nature of strategically teaching its users how to behave and dress in the dominion of the dead. Take for example the first page of the manual by Loudon: [1.10]

“The main object of a burial-ground is, the disposal of the remains of the dead in such manner as that their decomposition, and return to the earth from which they sprung, shall not prove injurious to the living; either by affecting their health, or shocking their feelings, opinions, or prejudices. ​A secondary object is, or ought to be, the improvement of the moral sentiments and general taste of all classes, and more especially of the great masses of society.​”

Where the second objective is to improve moral sentiments and general taste for all the classes. A great example nowadays for this type of design of cemetery is the Mount Auburn Cemetery located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The same cemetery mention at the beginning of this paper, were during this time (Mid Nineteenth Century) was an extremely popular place for the citizen of Cambridge to enjoy their day outdoors. Moving forward in history, we will start to see the decline of the “First American Park”, as a shift in the place where we mourn and the place where we store remains will change.

Ashes During the early Twenty Century, the return of cremation will slowly become more evident, from 400 A.D. when Constantine’s Christianization of the Empire to the Twenty Century, cremation was by forbidden by law, and even punishable by death.

Cremation was sometimes used by Catholic






punishment for Protestant heretics, for example burning at the stake. Moving forward,





cremation in modern times was done in London by Sir Henry Thompsons, “he believed





necessary sanitary precaution against the propagation of disease among a population





relation to the area occupied” [2.02]. In addition,




premature burial, reduce the expense of funerals, spare mourners the necessity of standing exposed to the weather during internment practice, and urns would be less likely to be vandalism since they were to be in a safer location [2.02]. He will later start the Cremation Society of Great Britain, this group will be instrumental in the legalization of cremation in Great Britain. Which took place after William Price cremated his first son because he thought it was wrong to bury a corpse, thereby polluting the earth. Which resulted in his arrest by the police for illegal disposal of a corpse. During court, Prince was able to argue that since the law did not said that cremation was legal, neither it said it was illegal. That he had not committed a crime, and that cremation was not illegal.

This will set a precedent for the “Cremation Act of 1902” [1.02]. Moving forward, the Vatican will still not accept cremation until in the 1960s, when they finally accepted the act of cremation under the condition that urns will still have to be internment inside holy ground [2.02]. Nowadays, cremation has surpassed burial practices in the United States since 2016 [2.02]. By 2035, more than 80 percent of Americans will be cremated [2.02], this is due mostly to the cost of burial and casket, plus more social acceptance among society about cremation practices.

Bits In 2008, we will have the emergence of social media, the last era I would like to cover about the evolution of the dominion of the dead. Facebook, as the largest social media system in the world with one billion monthly active users, in the earlier days used to delete the profiles of deceased people. In October 2009, Facebook introduced the “memorial pages”, after multiple requests from its users. After receiving a death proof of death via a special form, the profile is converted into a tribute page with minimal personal details, where friends and family members could share their grief or mourn their passing. In February 2015, Facebook allowed users to appoint a friend or family member as a “legacy contact” with the rights to manage their page after death. It also gave users an option to have their account permanently deleted when they die. All of these options are still active nowadays.

Contemporary As we reflect upon the evolution of the domain of the dead, we come to understand it as one that is always changing. At moments, society keeps their dead close, at other it pushes them far from the dominion of the living. At moments, there is not a preoccupation as to how the corpse will be identified or transform after it died, at other, monuments are raise and plot of lands are designated for each individual for eternity. As we move forward into a digital age and cremation era. What will be the role of the dominion of the dead? I would like to put forward a series of cases, where new technologies are attempting to augment the dominion of the dead to satisfy the new medium of memories that have emerged because of social media and memory prosthetics such as the smart-phone. This new technology might seem like out of places at moments, but after inspecting the evolution of the dominion of the dead, perhaps we can come to understand that it is one that is always changing. Therefore, to expect it to

retain the same design and tradition is not by no means how it has evolved throughout history. Case I: Tomb Heads (GPS / QR / USB) Three technologies are being implemented in tomb head design which has augmented the amount of information that they used to be able to hold [3.03]. In the past, tomb heads only held the essential information about an individual. Name, Date, and Short words of remembrance about the individual, a very limited by square footage allow from the tomb head dimension. As technology advances, new implementations are being added to this old tradition of demarking individual locations in the dominion of the dead. The first implementation is GPS (Global which

Positioning allows




System) the





of the

mapping of the dominion of the death. Take,





National Cemetery for the United States Armed Forces. Which it is the final resting place for over 400 thousand men and women. The size of the cemetery is roughly 624 acres of land. While the design of the cemetery creates a homogeneous field of white Christian Crosses, Islamic Moons, Jewish Stars, and other religious or non-religious tomb heads across the field. At simple glance, the tracking and locating of a specific individual become extremely complicated. The design clearly attempts to merge every

individual as a group standing together at the cost of individuality. Hence, the implementation of GPS has allowed for the furthering implementation of unity and the removal of complications arise from tracking each individual when visitors come in the search of a specific individual. The second implementation is QR (quick response) code bar, [3.08] a graphical bar code which allows for the retrieve of extra information on the internet or a server. First






manufacturers to track parts and later implement into advertising and marking poster [3.09]. Nowadays, we can find QR code bar everywhere, even in domestic interaction such as the sharing of social media profiles. The QR code which is placed in the tomb heads can be linked to an individual social media profile or personal website about the individual. Allowing for a large summary, photo journal, and information about the individual. Many companies have come to start implementing this into the design of tomb heads. A quick online search google search yields back:, , and as companies that provide the services. However, not all cemetery find the design of the QR, graphical in nature, enough aesthetically pleasing as an addition to the marble, stone, or granite tomb head. One example is the aforementioned Arlington National Cemetery, [3.06] which even though it implements GPS, it does not implement QR Code since they find still the connection

between QR as commercial application and not one that should belong in an intimate domain. The



augmentation to the tomb head of the dominion of the dead is that of USB drive or Digital Memory Storage in the cemetery. For example, currently, projects such as Israeli industrial designer Hadas Arnon’s “Digital Cemetery” consists of a USB drive, which gathers into it an archive of memories, which can be retrieved by any interface, such as a laptop [3.09] [3.10]. Family and friends can gather all of the digital data of the deceased onto a small memory drive and then access it later. This will allow for the separation of the memories from instantaneous access or leaving it to dwell in the spaces of the living such as social networks. Perhaps, this separation will attempt to bring back the geographical distance that the dominion of the dead used to give us and allow for a much more healthy work of mourning to take place [1.07].

Case II: Data Server as Columbarium There has been as well implementations in the whole infrastructure of the dominion of the dead, one that is significant to bring forward is that of the server becoming a type of columbarium of memories. Take, for example, Ruriden, the

high-tech columbarium located in Downtown Tokyo, Japan [3.11]. After the high demands for Tokyo real estate and skyrocketing cost for burial land, the popularity of cremation and the emergence of columbarium have become the primary way to address the high cost of land. However, this is not a typical columbarium, like the ones of Aldo Rossi in San Cataldo Cemetery, where it only provides spaces for urns to occupied. Instead, Ruriden, beyond providing the space for the urns to be store, it also provides a digital system of card accessing and data storing [3.12]. The urns are designed to follow this high-tech ambient style. They are LED lighted buddha-like type of Urn, which can be spec to be of a single light color, or have multiple light color rotation throughout the day. Case III: AR / MR Ghost As for the last implementation of technology in the dominion of the dead, I would like to bring forward AR (Augmented Reality) or MR (Mixed Reality). As bizarre as it might sounds, companies are already investigating the application of these technologies in the dominion of the dead. Take, for example, Japanese tombstone engraving company “Ryoshin Sekizai”. Which is out with a new AR app - Suma Tomb - that inserts the image or video of a deceased person at a virtual grave site of your choice [3.13]. When you open the app, you will be able to see an image or video of the

deceased. This visualization will be organized by geo-locked location. The image can also include a message from the deceased relative or friend.

Conclusion Through the examination of the history of the dominion of the dead, we are to hypothesis if the modern crisis of the necropolis can reach an evolution with the augmentation of new technologies, which will be able to absorb the new trends of remembrance. Considering in the one side, the importance that we used to allocate for every individual having a demarcated plot, where their body can rest for eternity, which is slowly fading back to a period like Grave Fields. The reason for this is because of the incorporation of GPS, where we can always be certain where bodies rest without any identifier, as well as with AR which allows for memories to dwell in a larger zone than just a specific plot. While considering in the other side, we have improvements for the expansion of medium through which we remember, no longer we only used Tomb Heads which are decorated with motifs of who we were. Contemporarily, we are able to add QR code to expand and connect to large infrastructure, where memory can be store. As well, as a place to deposit memories that we no longer would like to carry with us at all times in our smartphones, yet we are not able to erase it.

The contemporary crisis of the necropolis is not that we no longer want to use the dominion of the dead to remember, but that the dominion needs to evolve and allow for modern mediums to be implements for the memories of those which are no longer with us.

Bibliography Books: 1.01 Ariès Philippe. Images of Man and Death.​ Harvard University Press, 1985. 1.02 Ariès Philippe. The Hour of Our Death.​ Vintage, 2008. 1.03 Curl, James Stevens. ​Death and Architecture.​ Sutton Publishing, 2002. 1.04 Garde-Hansen, Joanne, et al., editors. ​Save as-- Digital Memories.​ Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 1.05 Derrida, Jacques. ​Work of Mourning​. Edited by Pascale Anne Brault and Michael Naas, University of Chicago Press, 2017. 1.06 Harrison, R. (2003). ​The dominion of the dead.​ Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1.07 Freud, Sigmund. ​On Murder, Mourning and Melancholia.​ Edited by Adam Phillips, Penguin Books, 2005. 1.08 Derrida, Jacques. ​Archive Fever: a Freudian Impression​. Translated by Eric Prenowitz, University of Chicago Press, 2017. 1.09 Ernst, Wolfgang. ​Digital Memory and the Archive​. Edited by Jussi Parikka, University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 1.10 Loudon, John Claudius. ​On the Laying out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries: and on the Improvement of Churchyards ; with Sixty Engravings.​ Printed for the Author, and Sold by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1843.

Articles: 2.01 Turner, B. (2015, April 15). Are there really elephant graveyards? Retrieved May 1, 2019, from veyards.htm

2.02 Cremation. (2019, April 30). Retrieved from 2.03 Etlin, Richard A. ​The Architecture of Death: the Transformation of the Cemetery in Eighteenth-Century Paris​. MIT Press, 1987. Newspapers: 3.01 Sloane, D. (2018, May 12). Is the cemetery dead? ​The Boston Globe.​ Retrieved from 9Erh0GklCHvkI/story.html 3.02 Eadicicco, L. (2015, March 23). Tim Cook still has Steve Jobs' number in his phone. ​Business Insider​. Retrieved from 3.03 Blakemore, E. (2017, May 4). Cemetery using technology for digital tombstones. ​CemSites.​ Retrieved April 28, 2019, from nes/ 3.04 Walker, R. (2011, January 5). Cyberspace When You’re Dead. ​The New York Times Magazine.​ Retrieved from 3.05 Walker, R. (2015, July 17). My Digital Cemetery. ​The New York Times Magazine.​ Retrieved April 20, 2019, from ml 3.06 Kneese, T. (2014, May 21). QR Codes for the Dead. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from ad/370901/ 3.07 Niemann, C., & Mooallem, J. (2014, November 20). The Startup That Lets You Communicate From Beyond the Grave. ​Wired​. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from 3.08 QR Memorials Headstone Marker. (n.d.). Retrieved from

3.09 Arnon, H. (2013, April 16). Digital memorial cemetery by hadas arnon from israel. ​Designboom.​ Retrieved April 28, 2019, from 3.10 Zalek, Y. (2013, August 7). The Digital Cemetery: Mourn The Deceased...Digitally. Design Fetish. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from 3.10 3.11 Jozuka, E. (2016, March 2). Death Is a High-Tech Trip in Japan's Futuristic Cemeteries. Motherboard. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from n-japans-futuristic-cemeteries 3.12 McGrath, C. (2015, April 6). High-tech LED afterlife in Japan. CBS News. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from 3.13 Holger, D. (2017, August 25). Japanese AR App Lets You See Dead People at Virtual Graves. VR Scout. Retrieved May 2, 2019, from

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.