February 06, 2004

Orkut--another place to live and die online

It's grey, rainy, and 40 here today, and I'm thinking about death again. I think about death a lot. Most of you know this. It's one of "my things," a thread that's sewn through my inner community of ramblings, one of the things I think about, one of the things I write about, one layer of context for the me I am.

Naturally, then, I got to thinking about death and orkut, my latest online neighborhood, about orkut as another place where our virtual selves will outlive our physical selves. We've talked about this in relation to blogging before, many of us deciding that AKMA, maybe one day Son of AKMA, would the best person to tend to our online remains, our weblogs.

With orkut though, the tending is a little different. If it sticks, ten years from now how many profiles will belong to the dearly departed? What will orkut do with them? Will we be able to add dead friends as friends? What will it be like to go back and see their words and faces sprinkled among the communities our friends played in?

And what for our children, our grandchildren, if orkut sticks and continues to evolve? And they join in. Forget friend, or friend of a friend. How about child, aunt, mother, brother? What will jenna think when I'm gone and she reads my question about zombie aroma on the the zombie survival tips community's myth debunking thread? (for the record: dead zombies smell like leather.)

I love that orkut is another layer of my online legacy. I love that my child will one day get to see where I cried, lied, lived, and died in front of my friends, and perhaps more importantly, in front of those who are not my friends. I hope it makes her less afraid, more engaged, and more open to everything.

The reason the whole orkut-as-legacy question strikes me specifically with orkut, unlike the other social networks, is, frankly, that the google/blogger folks are powering it. Let's face it--if the net will outlive all of us, then google will be our self-crafted, hyperlinked eulogy, and perhaps even our reincarnation.

There's no reason to think that everything we say, all we are on orkut, won't be part of our eventual legacy. Serving up our individual comments in community threads, it would be fitting that we eventually go to a profile and see every snippet of conversation an orkuteer has ever added, whether funny, serious, asinine, or intelligent. Much like Shelley does here. From the intertwining of these threads and conversations--and potentially even collaboration, our legacies evolve, deepen, and last.

Is that heavy, or is it just me being preoccupied with death again?