Maps of Myths: Memory Space and Digital Remembrance in the Egyptian Revolution

Culture
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 12:30 to 13:00
stage D
Intermediate
English
Talk

Short thesis: 

What happens when the events of a revolution unfold online, when governments and ideologies change and people are potentially held accountable for past online activity? How can we begin to deal with the trauma of the past when it continues to haunt us in the future? This presentation investigates spaces of remembrance in the age of digital communication and examines how public memory is intertwined with urban topologies and new media. It uses Egypt as a case study by addressing the impact of social media and digital fatigue in the midst of revolution and investigates how digital archives have altered collective memory.

Description: 

Our techno-social dreams have reinvented the skin of the new urban experience. Alfred Korzybski famously stated that “the map is not the territory”, implying a misinterpretation of the absolute reality of space. Technology, in a sense, has further blurred the correlation between our understanding of space and of the real space itself. While the relationship between consciousness and technology has disrupted the mythos of our urban environments, it ultimately brought about a new basis for the collective social life.

This presentation brings into question the commoditization of memory culture through the saturation of communication technologies.  With the visible need to produce and consume personalized forms of historical knowledge, how does the web’s predisposition of eternal memory affect future narratives particularly in cases of trauma? While modes of alternative communication are incredibly valuable in promoting democratic principles, we ultimately need to question the constructs in which such developments occur. There is no doubt that the digitization of information has impacted our historical consciousness and continues to shape our memories. Indeed, our seemingly unlimited capacity to store information has allowed us to access and create multiple maps of our cities.

Our memory culture has come to serve the particular goal of dealing with our traumatic pasts; it suggests ways of dealing with the struggle for justice and humanity, imparting notions of democracy amidst wars and dictatorships. Myths become the reality of our historical consciousness as we fabricate our own illusions of the past to serve the fantasy of the future. In the wake of urban and political shifts in Egypt, this presentation interrogates the re-imagining of the urban myth, of visualizing the city from the “personal” perspective through the highly problematic constructs of (un)democratic tools.  While the “revolution” is still ongoing, an abundance of visual information is accumulating and providing future generations with material to draw from and construct multiple narratives. By turning to the invisible archives of web activity, we must question how digital archives have altered collective memory in Egypt.

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