Saturday, October 31, 2009

Memory and Media

This week's readings bring the importance of memory and its link to cultural activity (vs. passivity) to the forefront of my attention.

Both Lisa Parks and Tom Keenan examine the disparity between visibility of crisis (in both instances human violence & genocide) and actual human intervention, humanitarian aid. Though in former Yugoslavia as within the Darfur, huge media corporations (CNN and Google, respectively) were involved in actively broadcasting the private, localized violence to public and global audiences, the lack of response was similar. People watched, heard, and even at times, were there, yet the violence did not slow.

De Certeau also raises questions that can be linked here, particularly when he writes on page 108: "memories tie us to that's personal, not interesting to anyone else."

What my pulling together of these authors brings into the equation is how collective or cultural (ie. stronger) memory might have influenced the situations Keenan and Parks describe. Was it precisely because the memory of Darfur was neither present nor relevant to viewers that they did not feel compelled to act upon their GoogleMap view? Do media consumers in general need to have or even to feel that a personal connection exists between themselves and what they see (the people being killed, the place being destroyed, etc.)?

[this might in fact also be relevant to the discussion that Pooja lead in our section about the narrativity and personalization of American media-- we discussed it in terms of the problems it raises and the pressure it places on objectivity, but might it also be an incentive for fund-raising or actual, physical intervention??]

Both CNN and Google Maps desensitize violence, they mediate the blood and broken families with digital interfaces. Moreover though, they might also create an odd power dynamic, in which we as watchers, users, listeners are looking down onto these situations. We are naturally distanced from them, but might these interfaces actually widen this distance? Do these technical instrumentalities use intense organization of details to obscure reality for us (de Certeau 96)

These (above) questions perhaps trail in another direction from my original topic: memory and why the necessity to memorialize/ to create collective commitment to places is important -- how is the media here connected? How does the importance of memory shape the media's job or risk its objectivity?

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