The DFG-funded research project "From the Era of the Witness to Digital Remembrance: New Media, Holocaust Sites and Changing Memory Practices" is an interdisciplinary and international collaboration between the Ludwig Uhland Institute for Historical and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Its core objective is to study the ongoing transformations of Holocaust commemoration in the digital generation. Our leading questions are twofold: How do digital media technologies generate new kinds of memory practice? And how do such practices of digital remembrance interact with more established memory practices that are anchored in places such as visits to concentration camps, museums and monuments? The ethnographic and interdisciplinary approach of the project provides a much-needed analysis of how established and emerging memory-practices juxtapose and entangle with one another.
A particular strength of the project is its transnational structure, which allows us to study the Holocaust-related memory practices of the digital generation in both Israel and Germany. Rather than assuming that digital technology is a global leveling force, we ask how it influences Holocaust memory in different cultural contexts.
The project is conducted by two project teams, each offering particular research competencies that effectively complement each other: the project team at the University of Tübingen (Germany) brings together strong research experience in the field of museum and heritage studies (PI Thomas Thiemeyer) and digital anthropology (PI Christoph Bareither and PhD researcher Berit Zimmerling), the latter being linked to the Digital Anthropology Lab at the University of Tübingen. The project team at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Israel) combines experience in Holocaust studies and tourism (PI Jackie Feldman), political science (PI Becky Kook) and media and communication studies (PI Noam Tirosh).
Working closely together, the project teams will conduct ethnographic observations of the use of digital devices at memorial sites and museums (picture-taking and posting, the use of smartphone-conveyed information at sites, other online practices); investigate the strategies employed by site personnel to cope with the new developments; engage in emerging technologies of Holocaust remembrance such as AI-based virtual survivor testimonies; analyse the representations of Holocaust sites and ceremonies on social media and compare them to more established media-representations; and study the digital dimension of alternative forms of grassroot memory practices (especially Zikaron Besalon). The project’s places of inquiry are physical places such as memorials and museums in Germany and Israel, as well as digital spaces constituted through social media platforms, hashtags, and ‘virtual memorials’.