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This volume offers a comprehensive discussion of Media Memory and brings Media and Mediation to the forefront of Collective Memory research. The essays explore a diversity of media technologies (television, radio, film and new media), genres (news, fiction, documentaries) and contexts (US, UK, Spain, Nigeria, Germany and the Middle East).



On Media Memory: Editors’ Introduction

On Media Memory: Editors’ Introduction

The title of this volume, On Media Memory, echoes, of course, Maurice Halbwachs’ seminal work On Collective Memory (1992/1925, 1980/1950), but it also denotes the uniqueness of this volume: alongside the numerous works that are devoted to the systematic exploration of ‘collective memory’ and the increasing prevalence of this concept (or, at times catchphrase) in public discourse, this book brings ‘Media’ and ‘Mediation’ — both with capital Ms — to the forefront of the scholarly inquiry of collective recollecting. While memory researchers often look at media outlets in order to explore the field of collective memory, and media scholars increasingly investigate the role of collective memory in shaping the news, films, new-media contents and more, this book wishes to offer a comprehensive and integrative view of this theme. That is, this collection conceptualizes and probes Media Memory — not merely as a channel or process but rather as a phenomenon in itself.
Motti Neiger, Oren Meyers, Eyal Zandberg

Media Memory: Theory and Methodologies


1. Cannibalizing Memory in the Global Flow of News

This volume presumes a link between mediation and memory that sets in motion two central questions: what happens to memory in its mediated states and what happens to mediation when it engages with memory? The answer to both questions rests on an underlying misfit between the work of memory and that of mediation, which rears its head in problematic ways in the global flow of news. When events, issues, and problems become part of journalism by relying on memory to take on meaning, their processing drives the resulting journalistic record in problematic ways. How this happens and what results is the topic of this chapter.
Barbie Zelizer

2. The Democratic Potential of Mediated Collective Memory

One finds among scholars of media and politics growing despair over the apparent inability of the mass media, and particularly journalism, to hold government leaders accountable for their actions and to aid citizens in reasoned decision-making about public issues. Media are said to ‘echo’ (Domke et al., 2006) or ‘index’ (Bennett et al., 2007) public officials. When officials are united, media are said to be incapable of generating a challenge to the official perspective. Even where there is no official consensus, official perspectives set limits on what Hallin calls the ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’ (1986; see also Bennett, 1990), which can reduce public debate to a set of procedural choices that fails to question underlying assumptions and perspectives. The perceived nature of the controversy in turn helps determine which political actors can gain access to the debate (for a discussion of the struggle over access, see Wolfsfeld, 1997). Regardless of whether subsequent public policy decisions are good or bad, from a communication perspective, this pattern of behavior represents a failure of democracy. For communication to qualify as democratic, there must be a genuine diversity of perspectives in public discussion, and groups not in power must be able to break into the discussion.
Jill A. Edy

3. ‘Round Up the Unusual Suspects’: Banal Commemoration and the Role of the Media

Toward the end of the classic (1942) movie Casablanca, Captain Louis Renault instructs his men to ‘round up the usual suspects’ after a Nazi general is discovered dead under dubious circumstances. In this essay I would like to round up the ‘unusual’ suspects in the question of collective memory. For a great many theoretical and methodological reasons, scholars from different disciplines examine the work of agents of memory as well as the form and content of commemoration during official mnemonic times and spaces. The role of the media in this endeavor, however, is surprisingly much less prevalent and developed (Meyers, 2007; Neiger, Zandberg, and Meyers, this volume), in many ways simply taken for granted and thus overlooked. I would like here to focus on what I call ‘banal commemoration’, highlighting the role played by the media as the major social domain in which and through which these non-intrusive pieces of knowledge play themselves out. I will use the struggle over the commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin to introduce, address, and illustrate the notion of banal commemoration. Before elaborating on this concept and its social significance, a few words are in order about the present case study and the relationship between collective memory and commemoration.
Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi

4. Media Remembering: the Contributions of Life-Story Methodology to Memory/Media Research

In order to understand the various contributions of life-story methodology to our field, we must first agree to define ‘life story’. I think it would be best to define this as an activity more than a complete verbal (or written) output. To make this clear, let us turn the noun into a verb and refer not only to ‘a life story’, but to ‘life-storying’. Individuals rarely tell their ‘life stories’ from beginning to end, aiming at a coherent, exhaustive narrative. At any rate, exhaustivity is out of reach, although the illusion of a ‘full life story’ is part of our modern individualist ideological baggage (Alasuutari, 1997; Linde, 1993; Ricoeur, 1991). Mostly, in real-life or in artificial research situations, individuals put together ‘some life story’, or, to use the verb we have just suggested, ‘life-story’ when they are prompted to put together narratives about their lives, with a sense of digging in the past. Unsaid or not, ‘I remember’ is the opening sentence of every life-story (or segment of life-story). It is no coincidence if some modernist writers have used this opening statement for their literary work (Brainard, 1970; Perec, 1978). The conscious sense of remembering is remarkable, not the act of remembering itself. The ‘I’ is no less important than the ‘remember’. Any segment of life-story is generally considered as pertaining to an individual, although it is often built through cooperation in conversation (Linde, 1993: esp. ch. 5).
Jérôme Bourdon

Media Memory, Ethics, and Witnessing


5. Between Moral Activism and Archival Memory: the Testimonial Project of ‘Breaking the Silence’

Viewing public memory as a cultural field of struggle over meanings and values, we address the question of how oppositional voices can insert themselves into an institutionally controlled conversation about a nation’s past and thereby reshape its memory-scapes. In particular, we are interested in two themes: (1) the interplay of ‘archival memory’ as a depository of knowledge about the past and its enactment as lived or usable memory in the immediate or distant future; (2) the role played by personal memories in renegotiating public memory.
Tamar Katriel, Nimrod Shavit

6. Reclaiming Asaba: Old Media, New Media, and the Construction of Memory

On October 5, 1967, Nigerian federal troops entered Asaba, a town in south-east Nigeria on the west bank of the Niger. The war over the secession of the predominantly Igbo2 area known as Biafra had broken out in July; by August, the Biafran army had advanced across the Niger, through Asaba and about 120 km beyond. Federal troops mounted a counter-attack, pushing the Biafrans back across the Asaba Bridge, which they blew up behind them.
S. Elizabeth Bird

7. Joint Memory: ICT and the Rise of Moral Mnemonic Agents

The objective of this chapter is to address a question which has been neglected from the fast-growing literature on the media-memory nexus: What should we remember? In flagging this question I aim to bring forward the ethical dimension of collective memory. My goal, more specifically, is to consider the manner in which modern mechanisms by which society members deny and commit to oblivion memories regarding violent acts they committed against others can now be challenged with the advent of digital technologies, notably ICTs. I shall address this question through an analysis of a website established by Machsom Watch (‘Checkpoint watch’) (2001) — an all-female organization whose members call for an end to the Israeli occupation and act to monitor the human rights of Palestinians at checkpoints set up by the Israeli army. Members of the group are present at the checkpoints on a daily basis and then post their memories on their website, designed expressly for this purpose.
Tamar Ashuri

Media Memory and Popular Culture


8. Television and the Imagination of Memory: Life on Mars

‘The Invention of Tradition’, ‘The Way We Never Were’, ‘Phantoms of Remembrance’, ‘History as an Art of Memory’, ‘Theatres of Memory’, ‘Memories in the Making’: these few titles taken from the vast bibliography associated with the study of social memory display what has become almost a commonplace in much recent thinking: that social memory is the work of a perpetual process of symbolic construction. Hence memory necessarily involves techniques and energies associated with illusion, storytelling, spectacle, fabrication, and art. The rhetorical frisson and critical acuity of these titles arises from the juxtaposition of apparently incommensurate domains. A faculty as seemingly referential as memory, fundamental to the relation between reality and identity, becomes entangled, if not tainted, with the realm of fabulation, phantasmagoria, and artifice: a realm traditionally associated with the role of the imagination in individual and social life, and with cultural processes of fictionalization that are today systemically concentrated in the mass media.
Paul Frosh

9. Life History and National Memory: the Israeli Television Program Such a Life, 1972–2001

On May 8, 2003, in the evening, a distinguished group of people gathered in an auditorium located in Shefayim, a locality north of Tel Aviv, to pay tribute to a television personality and the program with which he was overwhelmingly associated. The personality was Amos Ettinger, who was retiring from the Israeli Broadcasting Authority after 43 years of work in radio and television, and the program was Such a Life, which he had produced and hosted between 1972 and 2001. Among the people who came to honor Ettinger were members of the Knesset, major politicians, a retired Supreme Court judge, famous actors and singers, retired high-ranking army officers, university professors, and sports legends. The common denominator of most of these people was that they had appeared, at one time or another, over the years, in Ettinger’s successful program. After consuming a rich buffet in the entrance hall, they entered the auditorium and watched a screening of segments from the program’s episodes, interspersed with fragments from an interview with Ettinger, performances of several popular songs, and friends’ reminiscences about Ettinger’s long career. It was a moving event, a mixture of nostalgia, entertainment, and life-story telling — not very different from Such a Life itself.
Avner Ben-Amos, Jérôme Bourdon

10. History, Memory, and Means of Communication: the Case of Jew Süss

Joseph Süss Oppenheimer’s three years as financial advisor to the Duke of Württemberg yielded a plethora of poems, chronicles, witticisms, stories, novels, films, and historical research describing and analyzing his life. This successful Jew, born to an Orthodox family in the late seventeenth century, made his mark as a brilliant financier in the early eighteenth century, and was subsequently executed in disgrace. The fact that now, nearly 300 years after his death, his character is the focus of works of art and scientific studies indicates his uniqueness and the diverse perspectives and ways of commemorating his personality. Süss was a man of contradictions: his family designated him for rabbinical studies, yet he found his vocation as a tradesman; he was brought up in the Jewish ghetto of Heidelberg, but matured in the light of prominent Central European courts; he deeply understood the complexities of commerce and law, and sought to revise them radically; he planned wide-ranging institutional reforms, yet failed to comprehend the political map when it concerned him personally; he was possessive, a hedonist, and a womanizer, and tormented himself before his death; he was among the first Jews to have fully assimilated, but died with Shema Yisrael on his lips (Gerber, 1990; Stern, 1950, 1973 [1929]).
Na’ama Sheffi

11. Localizing Collective Memory: Radio Broadcasts and the Construction of Regional Memory

This study, which focuses on the interrelations between media, memory, and collectives, examines the significant role played by the media in forming the two dimensions of collective mediated recollections: shaping the memory and defining the boundaries of the collective. One of the central arguments raised in recent years in the field of social science maintains that more attention should be shifted to the ‘cosmopolitan turn’ (Beck, 2003; Beck and Sznaider, 2006), the process that involves more openness to the transnational arena and the sensitivity to ‘universal values’ that become part of national societies. Within this context, we argue that although most of the research devoted to collective memory centers on the construction of national memory — in the era of globalization, collective memory and commemoration that exist in a cosmopolitan context (Levy and Sznaider, 2006) — it does not necessarily promote national values. We will contend that, parallel to the ‘cosmopolitan turn’, a reverse process might be identified whereby small communities — the relations among whose members rely on geographical or ideological vicinity, or yet on common areas of interest — succeed in creating regional-communal-local versions of the collective national memory.1
Motti Neiger, Eyal Zandberg, Oren Meyers

12. Televising the Sixties in Spain: Memories and Historical Constructions

Many works study the role of television as an agent of historical narratives and as a producer of collective memory (Edgerton, 2001; Moss 2008; Wheatley, 2007). This chapter contributes to the existing literature by offering four levels of analysis of two case studies from Spain. These exemplify the coexistence of different explanatory logics which represent, in different ways, the relationship between the present and the past: the series Cuéntame c?mo pas? (Tell Me How It Happened) and the reality show Curso del 63 (Class of 63). Observing their discursive framing and their narrative strategies the analyses focus on four levels: the cosmopolitan memory axis, the national memory, the musealization aspect, and television self-memory and the role of nostalgia.
José Carlos Rueda Laffond

Media Memory, Journalism, and Journalistic Practice


13. Obamabilia and the Historic Moment: Institutional Authority and ‘Deeply Consequential Memory’ in Keepsake Journalism

In just the first three weeks after the November 2008 election of US President Barack Obama, ‘perhaps as much as $200 million’ was spent on commemorative products, according to New York Times media columnist Stuart Elliott (2008, 2009), who was among the first to use the term ‘Obamabilia’ to describe these items. This may seem unsurprising in an American culture full of commercial nostalgia, where ‘collectibles’ are produced for everything from sports victories to celebrity deaths. What was newer this time was the centrality of journalistic media — and, in particular, the most elite American news organizations — in the production and marketing of Obama commemorative products. Of course, as many commentators have noted, these products were meant to yield ancillary revenue and to ‘extend the brand’. Yet their content reveals that they were meant to do something more as well. Through words and pictures, this wave of commemorative journalism repeatedly reaffirmed the authority and value of elite, ‘old media’ at a moment when those institutions appeared to be in crisis.
Carolyn Kitch

14. Telling the Unknown through the Familiar: Collective Memory as Journalistic Device in a Changing Media Environment

Journalists are often faced with telling news of the unusual and unexpected, yet they must report on tight deadlines with little information. One device that journalists can draw on to get their job done is collective memory of society’s revered events and people. Collective memory allows news to gain a semblance of the familiar — journalists are able to tell their stories in a way that seems resonant to both news organizations and news audiences. In essence, through collective memory, their version gains authority as the version.
Dan Berkowitz

15. Journalism as an Agent of Prospective Memory

In everyday language, we use the terms ‘remember’ and ‘forget’ to express two very different temporal meanings (Neisser, 1982) — we remember, or forget, what happened in the past, and we remember, or forget, what we need to do in the future, or what we promised ourselves or others we would do: pick up the dry cleaning, get a gift for mother’s day, finish a journal review, follow through on campaign promises, bring our kids home from school; or at the national level, and the example that I will use in this essay — bring our hostages home from captivity.
Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt

16. Memory-Setting: Applying Agenda-Setting Theory to the Study of Collective Memory

Collective memory can be viewed as consisting of two complementary components: one being the abstract knowledge and conceptions held by individuals about the past, and the other the concrete mnemonic signifiers which are thought to shape these perceptions (Bar-On, 2001). However, collective memory research has focused mostly on public representations of memory, paying far less attention to the shared memories of individuals (though see Volkmer, 2006). This gap in research stems partially from a prevalent assumption that media representations necessarily affect the memories of individuals.1 As Huyssen asserts: ‘one thing is certain: We cannot discuss personal, generational or public memory separate from the enormous influence of the new media as carriers of all forms of memory’ (2000: 29). However, as media scholarship has shown that direct effects of the media may often be weaker than anticipated, there is need for a method to empirically test the assumption of an ‘enormous influence’ of the media on the shaping of public memories. This essay proposes the application of a classic media theory — agenda-setting — in order to analyze media’s impact on the construction of collective memory.2
Neta Kligler-Vilenchik

New Media Memory


17. Memory and Digital Media: Six Dynamics of the Globital Memory Field

Neda Agha Soltan, a young Iranian woman, was shot dead on June 22, 2009 on the streets of Tehran during protests following the Iranian June elections. Her death was digitally witnessed by a friend nearby using a camera phone: the data then went viral. He emailed the data to another friend in the Netherlands. The camera phone video was uploaded to a number of websites; within hours still images from the video were captured, printed out, and used in protests at her killing and at the results of the Iranian elections in cities around the world, including Los Angeles, New York, and Vienna. The next day, Neda’s dying images were broadcast by major television companies and made worldwide headlines including newspapers in Britain, the US, and Australia. The image of Neda’s face, covered in blood, was recolored, reconfigured, and reassembled across multiple media forms. The witness video prompted the creation of a number of memorial websites, a Twitter icon, a number of Facebook groups, two Wiki pages, memorial art works, and songs commemorating Neda’s life and death.
Anna Reading

18. Archive, Media, Trauma

Discussions on memory nowadays seem to proceed in two general directions. On the one hand, there is a growing interest in mediated memory: the various forms by which memory is formed and shared by means of media technologies, especially new media and multimedia. On the other hand, there is a consistent preoccupation with traumatic memory, that is, with the ways past episodes, which have been blocked out of private or public consciousness, return to haunt the present in various displaced manifestations. I want to argue that these two seemingly divergent types of memory (and ways to account for memory) are in fact interlinked, both historically and conceptually. What links them together is the technological apparatus of the archive, which has seen significant technological transformations during the last three decades. These transformations have given rise to new archival formations that in turn feed into the social practice of memory. At issue, then, is a triangulated relationship between archive, media, and trauma, the general outline of which is explicated below. While it is still too early to gain a comprehensive understanding of the developments underway, some emerging trends are nevertheless perceptible. Viewing the archive as a medium of memory may thus offer valuable insights into the contemporary challenges of contending with the past.
Amit Pinchevski

19. Mediated Space, Mediated Memory: New Archives at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a site experienced by individuals in and outside its confines in time and place. This is true of other memorials whose experience always exceeds their physical boundaries and the temporal confines of the visit. Unlike other such memorials, this one, with its abstract form and location on a large lot in the center of Berlin between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz (and near the Reichstag building), is considered ‘non-authentic’ with regard to the Holocaust. This new characteristic of a Holocaust Memorial frames how one experiences it, and contrasts with ‘authentic’ memorial sites, in which, it is presumed, some approximation of the victim’s voice can be represented (DeKoven Ezrahi, 2004).
Irit Dekel

20. Anachronisms of Media, Anachronisms of Memory: From Collective Memory to a New Memory Ecology

This essay highlights uneasy orientations to the ‘collective’ in contemporary discourses of memory and suggests its resonance is in part embedded in another out-of-synch conceptualization of the ‘collective’, namely that of the ‘mass media’. Instead, the paradigm shifts in the fields of media studies and memory studies require a bolder and more comprehensive vision of the nature of media and memory in terms of contemporary ‘ecologies’ of media/memory (cf. Brown and Hoskins, 2010). This approach illuminates ‘connectivity’ as one of the key dynamics in the forging and reforging of what I have called the ‘mediatization of memory’.
Andrew Hoskins


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