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


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

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

Friday, 24 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

Fire Futures: codesigning for resilience

Dr Skye Doherty

Friday, 31 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

From Fatigue Studies to Burnout: A Brief History of Work Exhaustion

A/Prof Elizabeth Stephens



Room 601, level 6, Michie Building (#9