chapter  10
Digital rituals and the quest for existential security
ByJohanna Sumiala
Pages 17

This chapter contributes to the field of existential media studies by applying a media anthropological approach to the analysis of death and related ritualization in the digital media. In this chapter it is argued that death rituals are considered to be motivated by a fear of annihilation and that rituals have significant transformative and imaginal potential to help individuals and communities cope with that fear and to create new life. The existential dimensions of the inner workings of death rituals are further discussed by empirically investigating the ritual practices of mourning and by paying tribute to the victims, as identified in digital media, of the Charlie Hebdo attack that took place in Paris in January 2015. The analysis of this empirical material consists of three interconnected phases: (1) digital ethnography collected at the time of the incident provided the initial outline of the event; (2) automated content analysis and social network analytics of the available quantitative media data were used to construct the digital field for this research; and (3) digital ethnography allowed for an in-depth interpretation of what (substance/content) had been circulating and how this material constituted links and connections between the participants and the digital media platforms. In conclusion, the chapter seeks to rethink the dilemma of existential security and the ritual search for order and predictability in the context of liquid digital media.