The Holocaust and Social Media

BANNER Holocaust and Social Media

In our May 2021 panel, we interrogated the multiple tensions between Holocaust education and memory, and social media cultures. There is much hesitation about the limits of social media platforms for Holocaust memory and education. Whilst they are generally conceived as exemplary of Web 2.0’s participatory cultures, which can open up exciting possibilities for co-curation with potentially new audiences, trolling cultures and the rise in visibility of Holocaust denial and distortion online also suggests they might not always be the most positive spaces for productive dialogue about the complex histories of this past.

Our speakers addressed some of the following questions:

  • How does Holocaust memory circulate on social media? On what platforms? Who shares it? What type of content is posted? How do people interact with it?
  • Do Holocaust institutions need to relish some of their control over memory discourses in order to productively participate in these spaces or hold onto it more firmly to resist denial and distortion?
  • Recommended content on sites like YouTube is organised through a negotiation between the user, the curation of playlists by uploaders, and the site’s sort algorithm. Of course, digital corporations are very secretive about their algorithms – but should we fear them?
  • Whilst they encourage ‘filter bubbles’ and ‘echo chambers’, can we also exploit them for positive aims?
  • What are the ethical issues of engaging with international corporations, renown for data harvesting and manipulation, for the purpose of Holocaust education?
  • Is there the possibility of creating alternative Not for Profit online spaces whilst still drawing in new audiences?

Below you can find out more about our speakers, and watch their presentations and the discussion that followed.

Our first speaker was Mykola Makhortykh, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern, where he studies information behavior in online environments. Before moving to Bern, Mykola defended his PhD dissertation at the University of Amsterdam on the relationship between digital platforms and WWII remembrance in Eastern Europe and worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Data Science at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, where he investigated the effects of algorithmic biases on information consumption. His other interests involve interactions between cybersecurity and cultural heritage, digital war remembrance and critical algorithmic studies. Recently, Mykola published in Visual Communication on the use of digital greeting cards as a form of war (counter)memory, International Journal of Conflict Management on the role of algorithmic news personalization in conflict reporting and Holocaust Studies on user-generated content and Holocaust remembrance.

Our second speaker was Anna Menyhért, a Professor of Trauma Studies at the Budapest University of Jewish Studies, and currently a Research Fellow at the Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in Vienna. Between 2016–2018 she was a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam. Previously she led the Trauma and Gender in Literature and Culture Research Group at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. She was the Vice President of the European Writers’ Council, and the President of József Attila Kör, the Literary Union of Young Hungarian Writers. She is the author of the monograph ‘Women’s Literary Tradition and Twentieth-Century Hungarian Women Writers’ (Brill, 2020), and of the bestselling fictional biography of the 20th century woman writer Renée Erdős, ‘A Free Woman’ (2016). She is co-editor of the book series Transdisciplinary Trauma Studies at De Gruyter, and currently working on a book project entitled ‘Trauma in the Digital Age: The Representation, Transmission and Processing of Trauma on Social Media’ (De Gruyter, 2021).

Next was Eva Pfanzelter, an associate Professor and the deputy head of the Institute of Contemporary History as well as the deputy head of the Research Center Digital Humanities at the University of Innsbruck. Her fields of teaching and research include European and Regional Contemporary History, Holocaust Studies, Memory and Politics of Memory, Migration and Digital Humanities. She has published widely about Holocaust history and memory and its digital implications. Her current book is about “Holocaust digital. Verhandlungen des Genozids zwischen Public History, Geschichtspolitik und Kommerz“ (“Digital Holocaust. Viral Negotiations of the Genocide between Public History, Politics of Memory and Commerce”) will be appear in Vandenhoek & Ruprecht/Böhlaus Zeitgeschichtliche Bibliothek in the Spring of 2021 in German. For more information visit her profile page.

Dr Imogen Dalziel then spoke about her recent PhD project.

Dr Imogen Dalziel is Programme Co-ordinator for the Holocaust and Genocide Research Partnership. She is also conducting a family history project for a private client and works part-time as Administrator for the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she obtained her PhD in 2020. Her research interests centre around Holocaust museums’ use of the ‘digital museum’ and Holocaust tourism, and the increasing overlap between these two elements. Imogen has volunteered as a proofreader for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum since 2014; her services were recognised with an ‘If Not For Those Ten…’ Award in 2016.

Finally, we heard from Stefania Manca, Research Director at the Institute of Educational Technology of the National Research Council of Italy. She has been active in the field of educational technology, technology-based learning, distance education and e-learning since 1995. Her research interests are social media and social network sites in formal and informal learning, teacher education, professional development, digital scholarship, and Student Voice-supported participatory practices in schools. She is the research manager of the project “Countering Holocaust Distortion on Social Media. Promoting the positive use of Internet Social Technologies for teaching and learning about the Holocaust”, funded by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) under grant no. 2020-792, and PhD student at the Doctoral programme in “Education and ICT (e-learning)”, Universat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain, with a research study entitled “Teaching and learning about the Holocaust with social media: A learning ecologies perspective”.

The session finished with a lively discussion about the current landscape of Holocaust memory on social media, and contemplations for the future.

Published by Victoria Grace Walden

Senior Lecturer in Media at the University of Sussex. Dr Walden has written extensively about digital interventions in Holocaust and genocide memory. She is author of 'Cinematic Intermedialities and Contemporary Holocaust Memory', and editor of 'Digital Holocaust Memory, Education and Research' and 'The Memorial Museum in the Digital Age'. She is PI on the ESRC-funded 'Co-creating Recommendations for Digital Interventions in Holocaust Memory and Education', the HEIF-funded 'Dealing with Difficult Heritage', and the British Academy-funded 'Digital Holocaust Memory: Hyperconnective Museums and Archives of the Future'. She has served as an advisor or consultancy for numerous organisations, including the Imperial War Museums, the United Nations and UNESCO, and the Claims Conference.

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