Open Lecture: What is Existential Media Studies?

What does it mean to be human in the digital age? The question of being human is for networked populations today highly entangled with digital media. The digitalisation of everyday life and our entire lifeworld raises a number of existential issues that relate both to what is mundane and to what is extraordinary. 

Speaker: Amanda Lagerkvist, PhD. Associate Professor and Wallenberg Academy Fellow, the Department of Media Studies, Stockholm University.

The purpose of this lecture is to introduce the young field of ’Existential Media Studies,’ including its impetus, theoretical sources of inspiration (mainly the German tradition of existential philosophy), emergent framework, and potential contribution to our understanding of media in general and digital media in particular. 

With a particular focus on Karl Jaspers’ work, it will offer a framework that allows this tradition to cast new light on our understanding of those existential and ethical challenges we face due to digitalization, for instance, when our selves are quantified, extended and distributed or our memories are hyperconnective. At the same time, this lecture will also show the need for ‘upgrading’ the existential to our contemporary technologized existence. 

With a particular focus on the field of death online, it will discuss the role of the digital for mediating the spiritual, transcendent and existential dimensions in life, beyond groups of confessional believers. And it will discuss to what extent digital memorials, communities of grief online and blogging about terminal illness may reshape the realms of death and grief, as they are today part of the existential terrains of connectivity.

Amanda Lagerkvist PhD., is Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies, and was appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow in 2013. She is head of the research programme: ”Existential Terrains: Memory and Meaning in Cultures of Connectivity” ( in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University, funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, and Stockholm University (2014–2018). 

With a particular focus on death online, the project explores the existential dimensions of digitalization. She is developing a theoretical framework for existential media studies while exploring empirically memories of the dead online, and after death communication, online mourning practices and digital-human vulnerability, the digital afterlife and the transcendence industry. She is editor of Digital Existence: Ontology, Ethics and Transcendence in Digital Culture, forthcoming with Routledge and is currently writing a monograph entitled Existential Media. Working in the fields of media philosophy and media memory studies, she has as a media phenomenologist previously contributed to debates on media and memory, time, urban space and performativity. She is the author of the monograph Media and Memory in New Shanghai: Western Performances of Futures Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 and the co-editor of Strange Spaces: Explorations into Mediated Obscurity (Ashgate 2009).

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Published Oct. 12, 2017 2:20 PM - Last modified Oct. 12, 2017 2:20 PM