732.1 Personal and collective memory making in the world wide web - History from below?

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Vivien SOMMER , Institute for Media Research, Technische Universitšt Chemnitz, Chemnitz, Germany
One thesis about memory in the web is that the relation between personal and collective memory work is modified because of the typical online offerings of the Web 2.0 such as video platforms, forums, blogs, or social networks. While actors in classical institutions such as museums, archives or mass media are less recognizable as individuals, they act on the web on the micro level in interpersonal processes of interaction. Therefore they can have effects on the macro level through specific conditions of interaction, production, and reception. In my paper I discuss these exchange processes by presenting results of a case study.

First, I will present the theoretical concepts. In order to determine the relation between personal and collective memory processes in the World Wide Web I apply the term ‘online discourse’. This approach is based on the assumption that memory cultures are manifested by different communities in social discourses. By inserting their interpretation of the past into a discursive arena, they (re-)produce online memories.

Second, I will present the methodology of how to analyze these different levels of discursive memory making. Therefore I analyze a concrete online discourse – the debate about the trial of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of Holocaust-related war crimes. Actors such as Demjanjuk’s family, lawyers of other involved parties or political communities enter the discursive field. Based on this case study I develop a mixed method approach: To analyze the products of memory work as well as the production itself I combine the research program of Wissenssoziologische Diskursanalyse with ethnographic methods such as qualitative interviews with members of these different communities, and participant observation during the production of online products. Both levels of the investigation are connected by the rules for collecting and analyzing data of the Grounded Theory.