Areas of Specialization
Death Studies; Social Networking; Culture; Medical Sociology; Education
Melissa Irwin holds advanced degrees in Sociology and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas. Melissa also holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology and Italian literature and language from KU and has extensive teaching and tutoring experience at both the K-12 and university levels. Her interests include culture (particularly subcultures and pop culture), education, the law, social networking via CMC, medical sociology, and thanatology. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Sociology who specializes in death studies, culture, and online social networking sites and behavior, is a full-time employee at the University, and tutors for KU Athletics. Melissa's favorite dead sociologist is Erving Goffman. She loves Duran Duran, really bad B horror flicks, and libraries.
MA Thesis: Mourning 2.0: Continuing Bonds between the Living and the Dead on Facebook, has been accepted for publication and will appear in volume 71 of Omega: Journal of Death and Dying.
Abstract: This study examines the burgeoning phenomenon of Facebook memorial pages and how this research about dynamic, online social networking environments can contribute to the existing literature related to Klass et al’s (1996) continuing bonds thesis. I argue that memorial pages constitute a new ritualized and public space for maintaining these continued bonds and that individuals exhibit several types of bonding interactions with the deceased. I conducted a content analysis on a purposively selected sample of 12 public Facebook “pages” where I coded 1,270 individual Wall postings. Analyses demonstrated that many individuals routinely used these Walls to continue their relationships with the deceased. This research highlights how individuals have transcended the limitations of time and physical space in relation to traditional bereavement behavior and rituals and how data found on public websites, such as Facebook, can be used to further theorize bereavement and to demonstrate continue bonds between the living and the dead.