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Scholar Alum Examines Posthumous Digital Footprint

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

ARCS Scholar Alum Jed Brubaker is rapidly making a name for himself in the exploration of solutions to a problem that didn’t even exist a generation ago. As a founding member of the new Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Brubaker and his team are working on answers to a puzzling question: When someone passes away, what happens to their online presence and their data?

Brubaker, who was an ARCS Scholar in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, in 2013-14 and 2014-15, currently studies how identity is designed, represented and experienced in socio-technical systems. “ARCS Foundation had a profound impact on my work,” said Brubaker. “Having a community support my research allowed me to turn everything up to 11, I was able to take bigger risks and expand my work beyond anything I had dreamt of all while having a supportive community backing me.”

In a recent TED Talk from June 2018, Brubaker talked about his unique work.

“Our online lives don’t end when we do,” he said. “Today in my lab, we ask questions like, ‘What does happen to our digital identities, those Instagram photos or your emails after you pass away?’ And I work with companies like Facebook who are seriously considering the role of technology when it comes to death and how we mourn.”

Brubaker’s past work has received numerous awards, received international media attention and directly informed the design and development of Facebook’s Legacy Contact.

Jed Brubaker