Mourning Practices on the Internet

The project "Mourning Practices on the Internet" examines from the perspective of linguistics how people express their grief digitally on the Internet, how they verbalize expressions of condolence after the loss of a loved one or another tragic event, and how the public discourse about this kind of grieving is taking shape.

Two corpora are being created in order to investigate these questions: Corpus 1 contains data from various web sources (e.g., online memorial sites, social networks); Corpus 2 consists of media reports covering online mourning practices. This data is evaluated using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.

This approach makes it possible to capture the dynamics of community formation on the Internet and to examine the impacts that digital communities for saying goodbye and for condolence have on the societal discourse on grief in general—a topic that is more relevant than ever in the current circumstances of the pandemic.

In addition, the project contributes to the debates about the dimensions of the private and public spheres and about the handling of sensitive data on the Internet: individual (but often heavily stereotyped) expressions of grief are shared with strangers, pictures of the deceased are made public, personal stories of suffering are made available. All of this has implications for our understanding of privacy. And that in turn is a highly charged socio-political issue.