Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mediated Mourning?

I've been collecting all my notes on various academic works I'll be working with in my thesis, but in particular I love the complexity of Harriet F. Senie's "Mourning in Protest: Spontaneous Memorials and the Sacralization of Public Space." She deals with identity and the collective at the spaces of violent events in the article and it is fantastic. Here's a short quote:

Although, perhaps even because, public experience in our culture has been rendered private by television and the internet, many of us feel an overwhelming need to make real what is increasingly mediated - to recapture the here and now. To stand on the ground where something happened is to feel the reality of the event - to feel meaningfully linked to others and to history.

To some degree, Senie is correct - when these events are mediated the public reaches out and tries to connect somehow whether that's through donating money, collecting goods, making a pilgrimage, leaving an object at the physical site, etc. We experiencing mourning as something to act upon: we need to take action and just do something. However, I believe Senie alludes to the idea that media remove us from mourning and make it private. In my research, particularly with the online mourning community surrounding the NIU shootings, I see the complete opposite where people are finding online publics like Facebook to connect with other mourners without actually interacting in a physical space. However, they are making "real" what is increasingly mediated - but through the means of mediation. The profile picture changing, the mourning group joining, all the other new media production around the tragedy signals that the public is using the mediating technologies to become meaningfully linked to one another and to the history of this event. After all, isn't the Internet one big database with lots of joined tables?

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