The “algorithmic as if”: Computational resurrection and the animation of the dead in Deep Nostalgia

Sara Kopelman*, Paul Frosh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Contemporary artificial intelligence and algorithmic processes address deep-seated existential challenges and modes of desire. In so doing, they produce computational systems of imagination, an “algorithmic as if” that enables the expression, transformation, and seeming overcoming of existential limitations via technological means. This article elaborates the character of the “algorithmic as if” by focusing on Deep Nostalgia, an online tool that turns personal photographs of the deceased into looped animations which smile, blink, and move, promising to overcome mortality by technologically “resurrecting the dead.” Performing a close-reading of Deep Nostalgia’s technological processes and the public discourse around its 2021 launch, the article highlights its combination of computational learning, forms of visual representation (photography, video, and animation), and distinctive realignments of temporal experience. Together, these frame the “algorithmic as if” as a magical and affective space for realizing impossible longings that are also reflexive encounters with the “limit-situation” of human mortality.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Algorithmic culture
  • Deep Nostalgia
  • animation
  • death and media
  • existential media
  • image manipulation
  • photography
  • technology and magic


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