Grievable Lives: avatars, memorials and family “plots” in Second Life

Dr Margaret Gibson | Griffith University

  • Friday 27 May
  • Room 601, Michie Building (#9)
  • 1pm - 2pm

Based on fieldwork in the virtual social world Second Life, this paper focuses on its Second Afterlife Cemetery, promoting itself as the first ‘bury your avatar site’. Avatars are symbolically buried and memorialized on this site and so too are the real life biological deaths of people who may or may not have corresponding Second Life avatar lives and histories. In examining the complexity of gender structure, relationships, and family “plots” of memorials, this paper argues that a biological death in real life —while deceasing a second life —does not amount to the loss of one life. Second lives are partially independent of the life behind the screen and may indeed challenge the assumption that the corporeal, ontological gravitas of physical real world existence is the only way life that really matters. The activity of memorializing a second life based on avatar sociality acknowledges and gives value to a computer-mediated, screen-based way of life. This paper argues that avatars as “person formations” are grievable lives, evidenced in the many dedicated memorials created by friends, lovers, partners and family members within SL. As this paper will show, behind memorials are often stories of complex relationships and family “plots”.

Margaret Gibson is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University and part of the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research. She is author of numerous publications concerning death scenes in film and media culture, public mourning and material culture. Her book Objects of the Dead: Mourning and Memory in Everyday Life (MUP, 2008) examined the symbolic and mnemonic meaning and value of objects left behind after a loved one has died. Her recent research focuses on digital materiality and mourning, and the transnational, social interface of online mourning and memorialisation practices to include publications on YouTube and bereavement vlogging; and the cultural and technological turn of automation in grief and memory work.

About Research Seminar and Workshop Series

The research seminar and workshop series' occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

The seminars occur on a Friday afternoon from 3-4 pm in Room 601 in the Michie Building (#9).

Semester 2, 2017 Seminars & Workshops


Friday, 11 August

Technologies for the Analysis of Communication

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Dan Angus

Friday, 18 August

Hotel October: The Deaths and Dates of Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Prof. John Schad
(Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, Lancaster University)

Friday, 1 September

The Writer on the Road

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr James Cowan

Friday, 15 September

Birds of a feather? Trump, Chavez and the populist communication style in times of discursive disruption

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Elena Block


Friday, 29 September

Making Hollywood Mobile: Labour in Global Film and Television Production

Room 740, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Kevin Sanson
(School of Communication, QUT)
Friday, 13 October

The Datafication of Religious Media:
Pulpit Plagiarism and the Spiritual Commons in American Sermons

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Andrew Ventimiglia
(TC Beirne School of Law, UQ)
Friday 27 October

Cirrus: Innovative, Digitally Engaged Assessment for High Level Thinking

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Natalie Collie, Dr Jennifer Clement, Kerry Kilner
Friday, 3 November

"The State of Fun": How Singapore's Fun Campaigns Legitimise an Emerging Casino Economy

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Juan Zhang

Friday, 10 November

Historical Moods in Film

Room 601, Michie Building (#9)

Dr Robert Sinnerbrink
(Macquarie University)


Room 601, level 6, Michie Building (#9