I’ve always been interested in how technology is evolving and how it is affecting our personal and our working worlds. Technology has changed and is continuing to change how we access information, how we communicate, what we create and what we leave behind. So preparing a module on digital dying for our MOOC, Dying2Learn, gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore a number of different aspects of death and dying that have been influenced or changed by digital technologies.
Some things are immediately obvious. Digital technologies have changed much of health and there are now amazing avenues for assessment, treatment and research that were not available a generation ago. If you are interested in the big picture approach to digital health, I’d suggest you take a look at Ste Davies’ presentation 10 digital health trends for the next 20 years or check out The Medical Futurist, who likes to pose grand challenges for the digital world and transforming health.
This revolution can seem a long way from the very human process of dying. However, many of these drivers are also influencing death and dying. We know social media is promoting new discussions about death and dying which is seen in websites or webpages like The Groundswell Project or Future of death.
We know that people who have health problems turn to the web for information and resources. So if I learn that I have a terminal illness and I know how to search I can find out about my diagnosis and treatment options and the likely outcome of treatment. I can find out what others have been through. I can seek cures and other treatments. I can even find my local palliative care service. But I can be more than a recipient of information I can be a participant. I can share what is happening to me with my friends and family on social media. I can seek to manage my affairs by making use of apps and online resources. (They can help me track my pain, organise support and care or manage my medicines.) I can leave messages for my family or friends to view once I have died. I can even choose to blog or tweet about by dying. All of these are digital choices that people are making.
So digital dying is a complex, interesting and illuminating and I am looking forward to the conversations about it in the MOOC!
Dr Jennifer Tieman, CareSearch Director, Associate Professor, Discipline Palliative and Supportive Services