The past has become remarkably adjustable. The digital network allows users to actively and simultaneously produce and reproduce their and other versions of a collective past. Collective memories are open to entire communities and their form has become as fluid and in flux as their traditional concept inherently is. A generative multi-memory is created, in which the browser is used as a collective memory-tool, providing the possibility to react and upload real-time. We can write our past for the future to come from our homes, in our chairs, at our desks. By circulating images and image sequences online, the image repeats itself and comes back again. The collective memory is embedded in the spreading and repetition of these creations. They become a collective memory tool and simultaneously, a collective representation. Users insert a bit of themselves into the production and send it across the web for others to use and commemorate. Here, memory is literally figuratively on the move; images and videos are posted on various websites to show the user’s concern with the collective memory. As the concept of collective memory is in flux, networks are constantly in flux, they do not fall silent. Geert Lovink already stresses this point in Networks Without A Cause1
Lovink, G., (2011) Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media, Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.
(2011); the web has no memory, it does not store — how are we able to understand all of this information when its context is always in transition? Memory and commemoration, official and individual memory now co-exist in the ever changing network. Can we make sense of the merging of these ever changing concepts in order to design our past and present into the future?
Ironically, one of the most fundamental aspects to the abstract and complex concept of collective memory is that its context is always developing and open to meaning. Where memory relates to our identity, collective memory relates to our national or community identity. “We are in need of a narrative that binds us in a uniting feeling, a togetherness — the feeling that we are not alone in this.”, Carolyn Kitch writes in Mourning in America: ritual, redemption, and recovery in news narrative after September 112
Donk , A., (2009) 'The Digitization of Memory: Blessing or Curse? A Communication Science Perspective', pp. 1 — 17. Presented at the Media in Transition Conference “MIT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission”, April 24 — 26, 2009, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.
(2005). This nation identity can survive and evolve overtime, Kitch explains, meaning content-wise, it can and will change, if only because of the ever changing collective. However abstract it may seem, collective memory does takes on corporeal form in means of memorials, museums and lives on in the minds of the people who feel aligned with this specific memory. The collective memory depends heavily on mediation: it needs production and performance, since we cannot actually possess this moment in history we try to remember (Neiger 2011)3. We need to mediate to remember. This is where Pierre Nora's concept of Les Lieux de Mémoire comes to mind; the places of memory, such as physical monuments, which are built with its main purpose to prevent the loss of our shared memory and in this way, stand apart from history. In On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a New Media Age (2011), Motti Neiger3 (a.o.) points out that collective memory is mediated through rituals, ceremonial commemorations and mass media texts. Examples are a nations half mast flag as a sign for mourning which is performed on specific dates to commemorate specific events or performed right after specific events to show grief and respect, the 'Dodenherdenking' on the 4th of May in the Netherlands, where two minutes of silence at eight o'clock in the evening is contributed to commemorate those who died for 'our' freedom in the WO II and the special supplement of the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad in July 2014 to commemorate the victims of the MH17 airplane crash. Another significant example of such mass media texts is the awarded section of The New York Times during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, called A Nation Challenged which ran till December 31 2001, but will remain indefinite on www.nytimes.com and played an important part in the nation's mourning process by portraying victims in a very personal and honouring way. This section is a very good example of what we call public memory — an intersection of official memory by institutions and vernacular memory, which represents almost literally the voice of the people — you could say, the individual experience of a collective memory. The web has shown to be open to combinations of official and vernacular memory such as for example the german online magazine SPIEGEL where online users can submit articles on German history (Donk 2009)4 and TIME Magazine's Portraits of Resilience from 2011 where survivors, family members, US officials and the President share their personal stories of 9/11 on video. However, more and more users circulate and share their own creations of a certain collective memory.