Last semester, I had the opportunity to do a research study on new media and what that meant in terms of collective memories regarding specific world events. I focused on the terror attack in Paris, France, as well as the terror attack that occurred only one day prior in Beirut, Lebanon. The attacks were both the fault of the Islamic State of Iraq, and resulted in deaths and injuries similar in number. I should also mention my focus was on the collective memories of North Americans, referring to traditional and new media and how they impacted a specific portion of the world, by the accessible news we heard and saw.
Collective memory defined:
“a memory or memories shared or recollected by a group, as a community or culture.”
“any collection of memories passed from one generation to the next.”
I’m sure most people reading this blog post remember the attack on France, but perhaps not the attack on Lebanon.
I used google trends, specific hashtags on twitter, and specific search terms on Facebook (forms of new media) to find out what people were saying about the attack(s).
Facebook, a leader in new media, was on the ball with the France attack. Users were able to check in, to let anyone in their social media realm know they were safe. Another feature, was the ability to change one’s profile picture to the colours of France’s flag.The option to change picture to the colours that represent Lebanon, however, was non-existent.
So what does this have to do with memory?
Although there was a lot of social media outpour, urging to care not only about France, but the many other countries and individuals that had been effected within that same week, France was surely the primarily remembered attack, collectively for North Americans.
I looked at new media posts a year after the attacks occurred, and it was clear, with the numerous posts across multiple new media forms such as, “one year since the attack on France,” or “exactly one year today. let us not forget the people in Paris.” I found nothing, within multiple tweets and Facebook posts from 2016, remembering the attack on Lebanon.
The attack on France is something that will be remembered widely, and shared amongst generations, and I believe new media has a lot of impact on this.
Of course, in traditional media, there is always the concept of new framing. Which, in this specific case was also very prevalent. In this sense, traditional media (news framing) and social media websites (new media) contributed to the collective memory of North Americans regarding the two attacks.
*Sidenote: I think what media did for the attack on France was innovative and amazing. This post is not to frown upon new media, and the faults it sometimes has, but to think about what it means solely in the terms of memory formation.