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Remediation and remembrance: “Dancing Auschwitz” collective memory and new media

Keywords: Holocaust , identity , collective memory , new media , virtual memorial

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Abstract:

A new generation is changing the face of Holocaust remembrance, a morally laden subject that continues to captivate public imagination, spark controversy and generate dialogue, now by using social media. In summer 2010, controversy erupted worldwide as “Dancing Auschwitz,” a YouTube video of a Jewish family dancing at various Holocaust remembrance sites, defied the existing cultural narrative through a novel expression of Holocaust remembrance. The artifact exemplifies the larger debate whether technology aids memory as successfully as we believe or whether by freeing us from the burden encourages us to forget. We argue that virtual memorials can fulfill roles left vacant by more traditional forms of remembrance and open new avenues of communication and expression that allow participants, especially Germans and Jews, to re-mediate their identities. Virtual memorials can enhance the remembrance experience by cultivating fluid, interactive and creative spaces that encourage high degrees of participation, collaboration and self-expression. In the case study, YouTube users implemented three forms of remediation: role switching, redefinition, and disassociation. Despite the obstacles (e.g., destructive identity forces, commercial culture, and temporalities of social media trends), technology ultimately act as an aid to humanity’s deep-seated desire to remember.

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