Jade Goody and the internet: a new way of looking at death

Experts in death from the Universities of Bath and Bath Spa will be looking at changing perceptions of dying at a seminar next month.

Jade Goody’s public death in the tabloids and magazines, and how the internet can make death a less isolating experience, are two of the topics being discussed at the event being held at the University of Bath.

It is being organised by the Centre for Death & Society (CDAS) on 4 March.

Professor Tony Walter, Professor of Death Studies in the Dept of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath and a member of CDAS, will look at the way in which the internet has changed our perceptions and attitudes to death.

He said: “Dying is irreducibly physical, but it is also social. Getting frail or terminally ill and then dying disrupts social networks; bereavement entails a restructuring of social engagement, with both the living and the dead.

“The internet is also, and increasingly, social, so that the term ‘social network’ is nowadays as likely to refer to online as offline relationships. So how does the internet change social interaction around dying, and does this change the experience of dying, caring or mourning?

“This event will look at dying and caring. The internet has the potential to make dying and caring a less isolating experience, to reduce the ‘social death’ of infirm elderly and their carers, and to enfranchise alternative dying narratives, although we are a very long way from reaching those potentials.”

Dr Daniel Ashton and Dr Rebecca Feasey, of Bath Spa University, will examine public responses to media representations and constructions of dying, in particular Jade Goody.

Drawing on focus group research with young female magazine readers, their paper examines understandings of Jade as a celebrity and related issues of performance, publicity and promotion.

Dr Ashton said: “Participant comments that Goody’s death “was sold” and that this was “not how cancer looks” signal the complexities and tensions around mediated dying.”

Other speakers include Dr Paula Smith, of the Department of Psychology, University of Bath, who will be delivering a paper on Family experiences of the Intensive Care Unit: preliminary findings and Professor Allan Kellehear , of the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, University of Bath who will present a paper called Caring for a dying family member in the Republic of Moldova.

The seminar will be held at the Centre for Death & Society on the Claverton Campus, 3 East 2.20 between 2.30pm and 5.15pm on Friday 4 March.

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