Collective memory of traumatic events in Wikipedia

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

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Cultural trauma research offer an interesing opportunity to study collective memory processes (Alexander, 2004). Unlike psychological trauma, cultural trauma affects a social group with some degree of cohesion, shaking the foundation of its collective identity, and is closely connected with the formation of its emergent collective memory and identity (Eyerman, 2001).

Neal (1998) and Sztompka (2000) pointed out the feature that an event should have to be potentially traumatizing. It should be a “volcano-like”, “extraordinary event” that causes “disruption” and “radical change … within a short period of time”.Moreover, it should be sudden, radical and deep, perceived as imposed from outside and as unexpected, surprising, shocking and repulsive. According to this characterization, a number of public events can be considered as potentially traumatizing: revolutions, genocides, deportations and ethnic cleansings, mass murders or assassinations of political leaders, acts of terrorism, lost wars.

Today, our life is meshed with digital technologies: we share online personal memories, photographs, videos, text messages, blogs, digital archives and storytelling. Through Web 2.0 and social networking sites (boyd & Ellison, 2007), we can produce and consume content (and memory). We interact publicly on platforms such as Facebook or MySpace, talking about our lives and sharing our thoughts and emotions; we upload family videos and photographs on YouTube and Flickr; and we can also collaboratively write the story of relevant public events such as September 11 attacks or 7 July 2005 London bombings on Wikipedia.


(Empirical) collective memories

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Couverture du livre de Maurice Halbwachs, Les ...

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The term “collective memory” was introduced in the early century by Maurice Halbwachs. The key concept is that individual memory and identity are always mediated by some collectivity: for example, a family, a community or a social group. In other words, every step of the memory processes is embedded in the social environment and is influenced by social resources (Halbwachs 1950; Eyerman, 2001; Hirst & Manier, 2008).

Until now, collective memory has been traditionally investigated mainly by philosophers and sociologists. Psychologists have recently begun to study collective remembering in small groups (Hirst and Manier, 2008; Harris et al., 2008; Cuc et al., 2006; Ekeocha and Brennan, 2008),  but what seems to be missing in this research field is a connection between the micro and the macro processes of collective memory building. Indeed, even if some scholars argued that the relationship between individual and collective memory can be examined empirically (Wertsch, 2002; Hirst & Manier, 2008), most of the laboratory-based research carried on so far on memory has tried to understand memory as a context-free and isolated psychological process (Pennebaker and Banasik, 1997).

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