Social Digital Memory


MSL2255H — Social Digital Memory

This course introduces students to the theoretical frameworks and practices of digital memory, identity and participatory heritage involving networked communication, virtual communities, and social media. It aims to address the increased importance of online social networks and digital communication as fields relevant to the formation of the contemporary social and cultural record, and as components of an emerging digital infrastructure for identity, memory, and participatory heritage work. Participants will be exposed to concepts and theories on digital memory and online social networks, the sociotechnical infrastructures they depend on, and significant examples of social digital memory practice in contexts such as traumatic and contested memory work, self-representation, national, subaltern and intersectional identity, social activism, and participatory heritage curation. The course will address challenges posed by the platform economy, surveillance, group self-affirmation and fragmentation, dis/misinformation, digital exclusion, symbolic appropriation, and digital obsolescence of social digital memory. It will also explore the opportunities for institutional responses to practices of social digital memory, identity and participatory heritage, which adhere to principles of inclusion, diversity and equity, and promote equitable cultural representation, human rights, civic participation and social justice. Examples to be discussed include Korean pop social media fandom, the Archive of Our Own fanfiction community, the memory of the Holocaust on Instagram, the mnemonic affordances of TikTok, digital death on Facebook, pro-am digitization as well as #BlackLivesMatter hashtag activism.

This is a hybrid, online course. As part of the asynchronous component of the course, students are expected to consult readings, recorded instructor lecturettes, and other resources available on the Quercus course website, actively identify and study additional online resources, and complete homework activities on a weekly basis, in line with the course schedule and instructions published in Quercus.  To facilitate interaction and peer learning, they will be asked to participate in two online chat groups (between 3-7 people), one focusing on a platform they are interested into (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, YouTube, TikTok), another on a key issue facing memory, identity and heritage practice on social media (e.g., activism, contested heritage, privacy, misinformation, participatory curation), to be agreed on the first week of class. An instructor-moderated discussion forum will also be created on Quercus, where they may ask questions, offer suggestions, and receive instructor feedback. The synchronous part of the course consists of mandatory online webinars, workshops and small group tutorials defined on the course schedule (1-2 hours weekly), aiming not at content delivery but at active learning through feedback to coursework and questions,  group discussion, and collective engagement with examples of social media memory, identity and participatory heritage practice.

Note: On account of its subject-matter and learning objectives, this course necessitates extensive use of commercial social media platforms which may require registration and expose participants to risks of misinformation and unsolicited information; while the course aims to expose and address such ethical and political problems, it may not be suitable for all students.