29 The mediatization of memory
Abstract: This chapter takes “mediatization”as the process by which everyday life
is increasingly embedded in and penetrated by connectivity: the process of shifting
interconnected individual, social, and cultural dependency on media, for mainte-
nance, survival, and growth.
I take the emergent sociotechnical flux as the principal shaper of 21
remembering through the medial gathering and splintering of individual, social,
and cultural imaginaries, increasingly networked through portable and pervasive
digital media and communication devices so that a new “living archive”is becom-
ing the organizing and habitual condition of memory. So, memory’s biological,
social, and cultural divisions and distinctions seem increasingly blurred if not
collapsed under the key active dynamic of the emergent media-memorial relation-
And although counter-trajectories of a mainstream media still persist to chal-
lenge the fragmentary and diffused character of memory in post-scarcity culture,
the openness of mediatized memory offers an alternative memory boom: an unfin-
ished past and a vitalized future.
Keywords: memory, connectivity, hyperconnectivity, two phases of mediatization,
temporality, emergence, archive, diffused war
1 Forever pre-paradigmatic
Tara Brabazon, in her review of Andreas Hepp’sCultures of Mediatization, takes
issue with the very term “mediatization”. Her principal objection appears to be its
abstraction and also its awkwardness in English: “It is a Frankenstein’s monster
of a word, with the bolts, blood and stitching of language left visible, dripping
and decaying”(2012). I am not sure I would go as far as Brabazon in terms of the
limited potential traction of mediatization to Anglophone readers (other -izations –
e.g. globalization –have become standardized in public, political, and academic
discourses). But I do find her caution is well-placed in reflecting the difficulty in
navigating the excess of emergent and re-emergent concepts employed to charac-
terize the nature and relationship between (and within) contemporary media and
There are a number of challenges here. A central one is in the nature of the
idea of “the media”itself that has become (only in relatively recent history) a
“placeholder”or “linguistic gloss”(Boyer 2007: 8) in everyday discourses so that
its meaning often remains unarticulated. Rather, “we find consensus and certainty
662 Andrew Hoskins
in the existence of the category itself –such categories, are, if you will, the
medium of our culture”(Boyer 2007: 10).
And the term “memory”appears to have a similar trajectory, as Henry L. Roedi-
ger III and James V. Wertsch (2008: 10) argue: “The problem is that the subject is
a singular noun, as though memory is one thing or one type, when in actuality,
the term is almost always most useful when accompanied by a modifier”.
This chapter, in addressing the relationship between media and memory, pro-
poses that they have a shared locus in their categorical instantiation in the every-
day. And yet, at the same time, they both have a somewhat paradoxical genesis
in their related emergent pervasiveness and availability, which has in itself
spawned a new messy lexicon of terms. The glut of media is also a glut of memory;
the past is everywhere.
Rather than getting a conceptual and analytical grip on the medial transforma-
tions of the past decade or so, instead another “linguistic gloss”for all that is new
and digital has become defining of much debate, namely “the Internet”. Of course,
this is a useful placeholder, as Christine Hine argues: given its diffused prolificacy,
the Internet is in a perpetually “preparadigmatic”state insofar as there is no stable
object around which a research paradigm could cohere (Hine 2005; cf. Awan, Hos-
kins and O’Loughlin 2011). Moreover, the Internet can hardly be conceived of as a
single medium and its transformations are more staccato rather than smoothly
evolutionary. Indeed, as David Karpf (2012: 640) argues: “The Internet is unique
among Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) specifically because
the Internet of 2002 has important differences from the Internet of 2005, or 2009,
or 2012. It is a suite of overlapping, interrelated technologies. The medium is simul-
taneously undergoing a social diffusion process and an ongoing series of code-
This sociotechnical flux is precisely the principal shaper of 21
bering through the medial gathering and splintering of individual, social, and
cultural imaginaries, increasingly networked through portable and pervasive digi-
tal media and communication devices so that a new living archive is becoming
the organizing and habitual condition of memory. Indeed, memory’s biological,
social, and cultural divisions and distinctions seem increasingly blurred if not
collapsed under the key active dynamic of the emergent media–memorial relation-
ship: hyperconnectivity. And it is via hyperconnectivity that I define mediatization
as: the process of shifting interconnected individual, social, and cultural depend-
ency on media, for maintenance, survival, and growth.
The idea of media pervasiveness and saturation as constituting a new environ-
ment of ecology of individual, social, and cultural dependency has a long tradi-
tion. For instance, “media ecology”is the idea that media technologies can be
seen as organic life-forms, in a complex set of interrelationships within a specific
balanced environment. Technological developments, it is argued, change all these
interrelationships, transforming the existing balance and so potentially impacting
The mediatization of memory 663
upon the entire “ecology”. Many associate “media ecology”with the early work of
Neil Postman. For Postman, it is “the matter of how media of communication
affect human perception, understanding, feeling and value”(1970: 161). But he
acknowledges the media ecologists –George Orwell, Harold Innis, and Marshall
McLuhan –that came before him, with McLuhan’s work being the constellation of
ideas that form the basis for a theory of media ecology (cf. Hoskins and Merrin
But it is hyperconnectivity that gives the “new media ecology”(Hoskins and
O’Loughlin 2010; Awan, Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2011) its shape: that which drives
mediatization, and the mediatization of memory. Certainly in the tradition of media
pervasiveness and saturation there is a new body of work that attempts to charac-
terize the contemporary condition in these terms. For example, Todd Gitlin, argues,
“the experience of immediacy is what media immersion is largely for: to swell up
the present, to give us a sense of connection to others through an experience we
share”(2001: 128). Scott Lash makes a distinction between the traditional media
of “representation”and the contemporary media of “presentation”: Once you …
reflected on the medium of representation. But the newer media of presentation
come to you. They turn up in your house and present themselves …in real time,
not in “time out”(2002: 71); Mark Deuze defines a “media life”perspective: “to
recognize how the uses and appropriations of media penetrate all aspects of con-
temporary life”(2011: 137); Roger Silverstone (2007: 5) observes that, “media …
define a space that is increasingly mutually referential and reinforcive, and
increasingly integrated into the fabric of everyday life”, and Norm Friesen and
Theo Hug (2009: 5) see survival itself as inextricable from media: “Just as water
constitutes an a priori condition for the fish, so do media for humans”.
However, hyperconnectivity transforms memory through media insinuating
itself into the remembering and forgetting process: memory is a kind of circuit that
extends from individual cognition out into the world and back again. Just as the
Internet “is simultaneously undergoing a social diffusion process and an ongoing
series of code-based modifications”(Karpf 2012: 640), so is memory itself. And this
point –of the impact of the mediatization of human memory –is well made out-
side of media theory.
For instance, in a very influential work, the psychologist Merlin Donald sets
out the influences of external memory systems of the power of the brain: “The
external memory field is really a sort of cultural Trojan Horse into the brain …
Temporarily it translates all the advantages of external storage media –perma-
nence, accessibility, refinement –directly to the brain …This magnifies the mind’s
cognitive power and amplifies the impact of representational objects”(2002: 316).
Now to place this in the context of today’s new media ecology that is “new”in its
reflexive intensity, complexity, and scale, “memory”can be said to be “net-
worked”, and as I stated above, part of a living archive in which media and cogni-
tion offer constantly renewed prospects for remembering and forgetting.
664 Andrew Hoskins
And so, in the sciences-of-the-mind a tradition that seems particularly in-
vogue of late is to see cognition –the mental process of awareness, perception,
remembering –as extended, scattered, and distributed outside of the head and
across social and cultural worlds. And it is here that there is scope for a multi-
dimensional theory of the mediatization of memory that illuminates the radical
hyperconnectivity of memory today, namely to say that that which we used to call
“memory”has become strange. In these circumstances, remembering becomes less
a matter of patchy reimaginations and reconstructions drawn from the traces of
declining lives and decaying objects and media, and more a matter of personal
and public hyperconnectivity strung out in multiple and mobile real-times.
2 Memory “on-the-fly”
The media metaphors of memory are as seductive in their apparent longevity as
they are plentiful. They have a history of their own, from Plato’s“wax tablet”(as
though perceptions and thoughts are like imprints in the wax and subject to the
wearing away of time –although he later rejected this same model) and other
versions of memory as writing, through photography, “flashbulb”, and the physi-
cality and fixity of film and magnetic tape, to the mobility and instantaneity of
“flash memory”. The metaphorical tension at least appears through the frequent
treatment of memory as either indelible and immovable or as something that is
not available to the human or machinic processes of capture, storage, and
retrieval. Douwe Draaisma (2000: 230) for example, states: “One metaphor turns
our recollections into fluttering birds which we can only catch at the risk of grab-
bing the wrong one, the next one reduces memories to static and latent traces”. Is
it then that this disjuncture has become more pronounced and our understanding
of memory has become more obscured with the rapid advance of digital media
and technologies and their associated memory discourses and practices? For, as
Draaisma (2000: 230) continues: “With each new metaphor we place a different
filter in front of our perception of memory’”. In taking “network”as a metaphor
for the highly mediated and mediatized memory of today, however, I do not seek
merely another “filter”to our perception of memory, rather, it is crucial to make
visible the paradigmatic shift needed (and underway in places) in the study of
media and communications. For instance, Mizuko Ito (2008: 2–3) takes the notion
of “networked publics”to refer to a “linked set of social, cultural, and technologi-
cal developments”and thus replacing the passive and the consumptive connota-
tions of “audience”and “consumer”. In other words, as the individual as con-
sumer of media is complemented if not challenged by the individual as producer
and user (thus, “pro-sumer”, see William Merrin 2008) then the relationship
between media and memory is similarly transformed. Contemporary memory is
not principally constituted either through retrieval or through the representation
The mediatization of memory 665
of some content of the past in the present, but, rather, it is mediatized via socio-
technical practices (cf. Bowker 2005; Van House and Churchill 2008; Grusin 2010).
Networked communications in themselves dynamically add, alter, and erase, a
living archival memory. For example, the minute-by-minute use of hyperconnected
sites and services such as Facebook and Twitter allow users to continually display
and to shape biographical information, post commentaries on their unfolding lives
and to interact publicly or semi-publicly with one another through messaging ser-
vices including in real-time or near real-time. Other “dynamic”platforms include
file sharing systems, such as Flickr and YouTube, which mesh the private and the
public into an immediate and intensely visual and auditory present past. Through
these services, mediatized memory has become something created when needed
The actual and potential transformative power of media and their associated
technologies to render memory (in all its apparently isolated or collective and
cultural configurations) static and enduring has been both acclaimed and
bemoaned. The neurobiologist, Steven Rose, for example, contrasts the memory-
keeping of early human societies with the memorial processes of today. In the oral
cultures of the former, memories needed to be constantly trained and renewed,
with select individuals afforded the considerable responsibility of “retelling”the
stories which preserved the common culture. Steven Rose (1993 60) argues that:
“People’s memories, internal records of their own experiences, must have been
their most treasured –but also fragile –possessions”. But also, the moment of
each storytelling was unrepeatable: “Then, each time a tale was told it was unique,
the product of a particular interaction of the teller, his or her memories of past
stories told, and the present audience”(Rose 1993: 61). In contrast, Rose argues,
new technologies challenge both the uniqueness and dynamics of human memory:
“A videotape or audiotape, a written record, do more than just reinforce memory;
they freeze it, and in imposing a fixed, linear sequence upon it, they simulta-
neously preserve it and prevent it from evolving and transforming itself with time”
(Rose 1993: 61).
By extension, the same technologies and media shape (and shape our under-
standing of) the nature, function, and potential of the “archive”. Here, the idea of
the archive as a “repository”or “store”is influential in contemporary media-mem-
ory discourses. Diana Taylor, for example, outlines the presumed fixity of the
archive: “‘Archival’memory exists as documents, maps, literary texts, letters,
archaeological remains, bones, videos, films, CDs, all those items supposedly
resistant to change”(Taylor 2003: 19). So, the very forms of many traditional media
evoke a permanency in their storage potential as “available”to future times.
One response to the acclaimed “fixing”potential of media is that this idea is
too easily embroiled in the association of the apparent permanence of a given
medium with that of the durability of the memory. Uric Neisser, for instance cau-
tions over the metaphorical comparing of memory with a “permanent medium of
666 Andrew Hoskins
storage”. He argues: “Such a comparison seems harmless enough, but once the
metaphor is in play we tend to endow memory itself with properties that only the
medium really has: permanence, detail, incorruptibility”(Neisser 2008: 81).
And, more specifically, as archival, media also present a totalizing function in
their blanketing of the prospects for and of the past, in the present and future. Jan
Assmann hints at (or even reinforces) this problem in defining two modes of “cul-
tural memory”so that memory operates: “first in the mode of potentiality of the
archive whose accumulated texts, images, and rules of conduct act as a total hori-
zon, and second in the mode of actuality, whereby each contemporary context
puts the objectivized meaning into its own perspective, giving it its own relevance”
(Assmann 1995: 130). A similar binary is more concretely evident in Rose’s (1993)
distinction between the fallible and dynamic “organic”or “human”memory and
the “artificial”memory of media.
The distinctions between the totalizing and the contextual, the permanent and
the ephemeral, the archive and narrative, are less effectual in the embedding of
memory in networks that blur these characteristics. The digital media of most
interest here are principally the Internet and the array of technological advances
that have transformed the temporality, spatiality, and indeed the mobility of mem-
ories to an extent that even the dynamics of the emergent field of memory studies
seem unable to keep pace with what I propose here is part of mediatization of
memory that mediatizes time itself.
The very condition of remembering is not only increasingly networked but also
actively and re-actively constructed on-the-fly, notably memory is characterized by
its mediatized emergence through a range of everyday digital media.
The metaphor “on-the-fly”is also found in the field of computing. To provide
one example from the area of programming computer audio and electro-acoustic
music, being developed at Princeton: “On-the-fly programming (or live coding) is
a style of programming in which the programmer/performer/composer augments
and modifies the program while it is running, without stopping or restarting, in
order to assert expressive, programmable control for performance, composition,
and experimentation at run-time”(Wang and Cook 2004: 1). On-the-fly memory is
not just a constructive version of memory that builds on and indeed requires previ-
ous moments out of which it emerges, accumulates and which also acquires new
characteristics with and in each passing moment. For instance, one of the pioneers
of the psychology of memory, Frederic Bartlett writing over three-quarters of a
century ago used the metaphor of the playing of a skilled game to illustrate the
“constructive character of remembering”:
We may fancy that we are repeating a series of movements learned a long time before from a
text-book or from a teacher. But motion study shows that in fact we build up the stroke afresh
on a basis of the immediately preceding balance of postures and the momentary needs of the
game. Every time we make it, it has its own characteristics (Bartlett 1932: 204).
The mediatization of memory 667
The treating of memory (and forgetting) as forged through a momentum of chang-
ing times, of both the relationship between the now and the most recently con-
nected moment, is an important starting point in the seeking of a more temporally-
adequate account of human memory. However, memory on-the-fly is more than a
cumulative trajectory of past moments which feeds into shape each present anew.
For instance, personal biography intersects with history in an implicit way, locat-
ing the unfolding details of everyday life in terms of the events of the larger soci-
ety –history in the making. The unfolding details of daily life have a “once
through”quality, in which the mundane and momentous actions and events of
people’s lives carry them forward even as the continuous present seems to slide
relentlessly into the past. Each moment is lived and experienced as what Harold
Garfinkel (1992: 186) calls “another next first time”, namely a recognizable and
sequentially located new moment, a patterned new moment that can be under-
stood because of its similarity to previous moments and because of its place in the
joint unfolding of biography and history (Boden and Hoskins 1995).
One can begin to realize just how instructive Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology is
in accounting for the relationship between media and memory in terms of the shift
in focus from media content to that of sociotechnical practices. This is part of a
wider shift underway between “two phases of mediatization”which I develop
below. The first phase ofmediatization involves the forms, practices, and experien-
ces associated with the dominant media and institutions of the broadcast era,
and particularly television. The second phase does interconnect and overlap with
elements of the first, but it is distinctive in that it requires a shift in how we
approach and formulate the very relationship we have with media. Notably, this
is owing to its much more immediate and extensive interpenetration with the
everyday on an individual, social, and continual basis (Hoskins and O’Loughlin
Indeed, Garfinkel’s“another next first time”is similar to the title of Lisa Gitel-
man’s excellent book on how media function simultaneously as subjects and
instruments of inquiry: Always Already New (2006). How then to best characterize
and interrogate memory that is continually affected (and expressed through) digi-
tal media in that there is an ongoing negotiation of the self and culture through
and interplay with the emergent technologies of the day to shape a past that is
“always already new”?
The tension with all investigations into the nature and influences on memory
of the traces of the past versus the contingencies of the present is even more
profound with the onset of digital media. This is because of the ways in which
digital networks simultaneously enable a massively increased availability of all-
things-past (which Anderson  calls “the long tail”) and the heightened con-
nectivity of, and in, the present. Furthermore, the construction of memory in every-
day life is “imbricated”not only in digital recording technologies and media but
also in the standards and classifications resulting from their growth that inevitably
668 Andrew Hoskins
and often invisibly regulate our sociotechnical practices (see Bowker and Star
2000: 2). To go further, technological advances have provoked a re-evaluation of
the relationship between media and consciousness.
There is a history to these developments. Grusin (2010) for example, observes
that: “even media and cultural theorists have begun to argue that humans have
historically co-evolved with technology, distributing their cognitive and other func-
tions across an increasingly complex network of technical artifacts”. And, one of
the driving features of the transformation of these relationships is a “technological
unconscious”(Clough 2000; Taylor 2002; Thrift 2004; Hayles 2006; Grusin 2007).
Hayles (drawing on Thrift) defines this as “the everyday habits initiated, regulated,
and disciplined by multiple strata of technological devices and inventions”(2006:
138). Once, the relationship between the broadcast media and “mass audiences”
of the first phase of mediatization was theorized in terms of linear models of com-
munication (and “influence”and the legacy of “effects”research unfortunately
still clings to the teaching of and scholarship in the discipline of Media and Com-
munication Studies in places). (And, a corollary in memory studies is a long legacy
of the term “collective”, although this issue is beyond the parameters of this
essay). Today, however, digital technologies and media penetrate and “mesh”with
So, contemporary memory is thoroughly interpenetrated by a technological
unconscious in that there occurs a “co-evolution”or rather a revolution of memory
and technology. Memory is readily and dynamically configured through our digital
practices and the connectivity of digital networks. There is a kind of ambient qual-
ity to this shaping of memory in the present through the “very basic sendings and
receivings of sociotechnical life –and the modest but constant hum of connection
and interconnection that they make possible”(Thrift 2004: 175). The increasingly
digital networking of memory not only functions in a continuous present but is
also a distinctive shaper of a new mediatized age of memory. Hayles (2006: 138),
for instance, argues “the unconscious has a historical dimension, changing in
relation to the artefactual environment with which it interacts”, and Bowker (2005:
26) suggests that: “Each new medium imprints its own special flavor to the memo-
ries of that epoch”. And here the two phases of mediatization are useful in illumi-
nating this relationship.
3 Two phases of mediatization
The current (second) phase of mediatization is defined by the staccato transforma-
tions of the Internet, but is preceded by a phase which ironically has defined much
of the work of Media Studies, struggling to make sense of the second (Merrin
2008). The first phase is characterized by the traditional organization of “Big
Media”(Gillmor 2006) and elite institutions which were seen by some commenta-
The mediatization of memory 669
Tab. :The two phases of the mediatization of warfare (reproduced from Hoskins and O’Loughlin
Phase of Characteristics Central questions in this phase
First Discrete, large organizations, mass How do media make war visible? How do
media, mass audiences, international media deliver war to audiences? How do
news coverage dominated by a small media shape public opinion, and how
number of Western media organiza- does public opinion shape how war is
tions and driven by satellite television. conducted?
Mass warfare enabled by mostly distan-
ciated and temporally-limited military
strikes. Actions and effects largely
predictable and measurable.
Second Intense international competition for Now that actors in war anticipate and
provision of news beyond and onto the shape media coverage of their actions,
West. Continuous connectivity creates how do they design war for media, and
diffuse audiences and messages and how is media designed for war? Now that
media itself is weaponized. Temporal audiences know these symbolic/represen-
horizons and geopolitics of warfare tational games are being played, how do
transformed. Overlapping systems they find credible and authoritative infor-
characterized by emergence, chaos mation and analysis about war? How do
and flux. Unknowable risk. Actors the new “affective networks”connecting
must learn to manage unexpected media forms, technologies and practices
feedback and live with ambiguity. promote and/or contain warfare?
tors on cultural memory, for example, as proliferating overbearing and hierarchi-
cally-organized archives. For instance, Nora (1989: 14) argues that such archival
accumulations produced a “terrorism of historicized memory”.
In War and Media: The Emergence of Diffused War (2010) Ben O’Loughlin and
I develop our theory of the mediatization of warfare over two phases, summarized
in Table 1, reproduced below.
One of the defining features of the second phase of mediatization for both
warfare and for memory is that the living archive delivers a “long tail”(Anderson
2006) of the past (images, video, etc.) whose “emergence”into future presents is
contingent in terms of the when, but also in terms of its access by whom. “Emer-
gence”is the massively increased potential for media data to literally “emerge”:
to be “discovered”and/or disseminated at an unprescribed and unpredictable time
after the moment of recording, and so to transcend and transform that which is
known, or thought to be known, about an event.
In terms of warfare this creates significant new uncertainties for all actors
involved in the conduct of warfare. In War and Media, we identify the emergence
of “diffused war”: a new paradigm of war in which (i) the mediatization of war
670 Andrew Hoskins
(ii) makes possible more diffuse causal relations between action and effect, (iii)
creating greater uncertainty for policymakers in the conduct of war (Hoskins and
O’Loughlin 2010: 3). As with the mediatization of memory, we take “connectivity”
as the key dynamic in being the key modulator of insecurity and security today,
amplifying awareness of distant conflicts or close-to-home threats, yet containing
these insecurities in comforting news packages. Media, we argue, is weaponized –
made a tool of warfare –through this connectivity. And it is this connectivity
which ushers in a world of “effects without causes”in which risk and danger seem
impossible to calculate and thus makes order and security less easy to achieve
(Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010: 2).
But the second phase of the mediatization also shapes the memory of warfare
in apparently contradictory ways. In “post-scarcity culture”(Hoskins 2011, 2014,
forthcoming) the flux of the digital ushers in a frenzy of seeing and imagining past
and present; what was once scarce and relatively inaccessible from the past in the
past is suddenly and inexorably visible, searchable, and mineable. For some, this
has fuelled the contemporary memory boom(s) (Huyssen 2003; Winter 2006) or
“turn to memory”with increasing power afforded to the prism of the traumas and
triumphs of particularly modern conflicts and catastrophes, through which those
unfolding are seen (or not seen), interpreted, managed, assimilated into mediat-
ized collective consciousness. Indeed, the very legitimacy of contemporary warfare
is both increasingly reinforced and contested through a mainstream ravaging of
the archive with “media templates”(Kitzinger 2000; Hoskins 2004a; cf. “schema”
(Brown and Hoskins 2010)) instantly and powerfully imposed from post-scarcity’s
database. In so doing 20
-century wars are held in a perpetual effervescent mem-
ory. For example, Clément Chéroux considers how media coverage of 9/11 was
defined by an “essential topos”of the World War II Japanese attack on Pearl Har-
bor in 1941 both through image comparisons and through iconographic rhetoric
(2012: 263). So, rather than the second phase of mediatization determining only an
almighty diffusion and fragmentation of the memory of warfare, it also entrenches
trajectories of past images, icons, interpretations.
But the mediatization of warfare and the weaponization of media converge
around new visioning technologies and what some refer to as “cyberwarfare”. As
the contemporary battlefield is mediatized through the increasing use of drones
and computer viruses, the journalistic capacity to represent modern warfare is
compromised. For instance, as the award-winning landscape (battlefield) photog-
rapher Simon Norfolk (2012) asks:
How do you photograph a drone flying over Yemen at 40,000 feet and firing a missile into a
car in the middle of nowhere? You can’t photograph it. How do you photograph satellite
warfare or submarine systems, or cyberwarfare? That’s how the war of the future is being
fought, that is where the money is being spent …I don’t know how to photograph any of that
The mediatization of memory 671
Meanwhile, the mainstream representational void is filled with the deepening tra-
jectories of icons of 20
-century war. For example, as Michael Shaw (2011) has
shown, the 20
century is alive and well in photojournalistic work from 21
tury Afghanistan, with the image of wounded US marines in the rear of a military
“medevac”helicopter being airlifted out of the warzone to safety, re-envisioning
images made iconic in David C. Turnley’s World Press Photo of the Year in 1991,
and notably a “re-shoot”of the Larry Burrows’Vietnam photograph which made
the cover of Life magazine in April 1965 (Norfolk 2012; Hoskins 2014).
These examples then suggest that mediatization narrows as well as widens the
aperture of war memory, consolidating some mainstream media trajectories and
keeping the memory boom –premised upon 20
-century wars –alive amidst post-
scarcity culture. I now turn to explore the impact of mediatization and connectivity
on the engine of post-scarcity culture –the living archive.
4 Time of the archive?
As I have suggested, the second phase of mediatization ushers in a range of para-
doxical uncertainties and certainties of memory. At one level at least, the relatively
stable institutional and archival basis for remembering is made contingent on
emergence. For example, David Weinberger (2007) calls this the “third order”of
information, involving the removal of the limitations previously assumed inevita-
ble in the ways information is organized. (The “first order”is the actual physical
placing or storage of an item and the “second order”is that which separates infor-
mation about the first order objects from the objects themselves such as the card
Weinberger (2007: 22) argues that “the miscellanizing”of information not only
breaks it out of its traditional organizational categories but also removes the
implicit authority granted by being published in the paper world. Thus, under
these conditions, the archive appears to have new potential, liberated from its
former inherently spatial and to some extent institutional constraints. Indeed, the
traditional materiality associated with the artefactual archive has been challenged
with the fluidity, reproducibility, and transferability of digital data. In this way
archives as they have become increasingly networked have become a key stratum
of our technological unconscious, transcending the social and the technological.
For instance, as Van House and Churchill (2008: 306) observe: “Archives sit at the
boundary between public and private. Current archives extend well beyond a per-
son, a space, an institution, a nation state. They are socio-technical systems, nei-
ther entirely social nor technical”.
A key trend in this regard is the ways in which archives have become net-
worked –part of a new accessible and hyperconnected memory. Thus, the archive
can even be seen as a medium in its own right as it has been liberated “from
672 Andrew Hoskins
archival space into archival time”(Ernst 2004: 52). That is to say, the idea of the
static archive as a permanent place of storage, is being replaced by the much more
fluid temporalities and dynamics of “permanent data transfer”(Ernst 2004: 52)
Whereas, the archives of the first phase of mediatization were stored in the archi-
val space of the vault or library subject to the material conditions of order, classifi-
cation, and retrieval (i.e. access), it is hyperconnectivity that becomes of primary
significance to the living archive in the second phase.
Elsewhere, I have written on the “collapse of memory”(Hoskins 2004b), which
was a condition brought on by the “emerging new structures of temporality gener-
ated by the quickening pace of material life on the one hand and by the accelera-
tion of media images and information on the other”(Huyssen, 1995: 253). The mass
media effaced the past through the imposition of (visual and aural) immediacy in
their mediation of events and particularly through the real-time lens of television
news. This describes one consequence of the first phase of mediatization, in which
the broadcast media ushered in a perpetual and pervasive present, but one that
included the recycling of past images, sounds, and events, through a prism of the
instantaneity of real-time or at least the televisual stylistics and discourse of
pseudo real-time reporting. Although television has been characterized as possess-
ing an embedded “liveness”as a property of the medium itself (i.e. television is
always “on”), the second phase of mediatization sees the emergence of the Inter-
net as a temporally dynamic networked archival infrastructure which makes it a
qualitatively different mechanism of memory. Ernst (2004: 52) for example, argues:
“Within the digital regime, all data become subject to realtime processing. Under
data processing conditions in realtime, the past itself becomes a delusion; the
residual time delay of archival information shrinks to null”. Although Ernst sees
the memory cultures of the material archive-centre European cultural memory co-
existing with the emergence of a “transfer-based”trans-Atlantic media (Ernst
2004: 52) the inevitable advance of the latter both over and into the former produ-
ces a fissuring of cultural-media memory. I now develop a key transformation of
the second phase to consider if time itself has been mediatized.
One of the key emergent binaries in the theorization of cultural memory, that
I wish to argue is only partially useful as an explanatory model of the new dynam-
ics of mediatized memory, is that of active versus passive remembering (and forget-
ting). Aleida Assmann (2008: 98) proposes two modes of cultural memory in that:
“The institutions of active memory preserve the past as present while the institu-
tions of passive memory preserve the past as past”(original italics). Assmann uses
the different spaces of the museum to illustrate this position; the former actively
circulated memory is represented by that which is on show and visible to public
visitors she terms the “canon”, whereas the latter “passively stored memory”com-
prises those objects stored and currently not on display Assmann calls the
“archive”(Assmann 2008). This model, however, is most applicable to a highly
material form of cultural memory, and does not adequately account for the dynam-
The mediatization of memory 673
ics of digital data (including database technologies and the Web) in challenging
public spatial display (and material existence) as a signifier of canonicity.
The fissuring of cultural-media memory then is intensifying as the modus oper-
andi of history of the second phase of mediatization is increasingly digital. The
productions of memory and the data used to forge history are made in an ongoing
present. And it is the World Wide Web that has ushered in a temporality in its
production of events that mediatizes memory in new ways.
Despite its archival promise, the Web does not merely produce an interweav-
ing of past and present, but a new networked “coevalness”, of connectivity and
data transfer. For example, Gitelman (2006: 147), envisages the Web involving: “a
public variously engaged in reading, selecting, excerpting, linking, citing, pasting,
writing, designing, revising, updating, and deleting, all within a context where
the datedness of these heterogeneous interpretive acts remains inconsistently per-
ceived or certain”(original italics). The temporality of the Web is emergent and
continuous as opposed to the temporality of other media, which render our experi-
ences of events as “punctual”(cf. Michael Warner 2002). Compare with, for exam-
ple, the circulations of publications and broadcast media –and even “24-hour”
news which, paradoxically, is highly punctuated around the cycle of clock-time
and which is often incorporated into its semiotic display.
This is not just an issue of web pages, for example, being vulnerable to contin-
ual updating and permanent disconnection from the network and/or deletion, and
thus not available for discovery and restoration to their original state, or any one
of their former states. But digital and digitized data as with the content of any
emergent media is ultimately vulnerable to obsolescence, beyond recovery without
the availability of the technological tools compatible with its creation.
The changes in temporality associated with the Internet are illuminated
through attempts to capture and preserve it. The Wayback Machine (www.
archive.org) attempts to perform such an operation in attempting to provide an
archive of the Internet on the Internet. On its home (search) page it announces
“Welcome to the Archive”and it is labelled as a “non-profit”venture that is “build-
ing a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form”.
However, the Wayback Machine fails to deliver the punctual logic of the archives
of other media even though it presents pages according to the date of their capture.
So, whereas the media of television, film, and print are rendered relatively punc-
tual in their datedness of production, publication, and circulation, and which is
embodied in the cultures of their reproduction and archiving (including remedi-
ated on the Internet) there is not a universal and reliable temporally-located
“shared sense of Web publication as an event”(Gitelman 2006: 137). Indeed, this
is made apparent with the seeming presentness of the past that the Wayback
Machine seeks to capture and to recover, in that: “there is something oddly and
unidentifiably present about the past to which the Wayback Machine promises to
transport its users”(Gitelman 2006: 137).
674 Andrew Hoskins
However, in addition to the difficulties inherent in capturing, storing, and
reproducing the instantaneity of the real-time effects of Web pages, Gitelman
points to the “cultural logic of timelessness”associated with online publication
projects such as the William Blake Archive which is: “helping to make a new
medium authoritative in a sense by co-opting cultural authority, by entwining the
new means and existing subjects of public memory”(Gitelman 2006: 141). Indeed
the Blake Archive is promoted as “a hybrid all-in-one edition, catalogue, database,
and set of scholarly tools capable of taking full advantage of the opportunities
offered by new information technology”(The William Blake Archive). So, when
such projects aim to incorporate, for example: “as much of Blake’s pictorial and
literary canon as possible”(The William Blake Archive), what are the prospects
for a greater transference between or even a blurring of Aleida Assmann’s modes
of “active”(canon) and “passive”(archive) memory? It is the case that the develop-
ment of the Internet represents a huge accumulation of archival memory, in Ass-
mann’s terms, in that its storage capacity “has by far exceeded that which can be
translated back into active human memory”(Assmann 2008: 104). Yet, at the very
least the temporality of the Web and other communications technologies and the
fluidity of digital content, are transforming the archival properties and cultures in
which individual, social, and cultural memories are invested. Thus, the idea of
active memory equating to the preservation of the “past as present”and passive
memory as the preservation of the “past as past”, fails to address the function of
the continuous networked present of the Web and other digital media through
which memory and technology co-evolve, including the co-existing of previously
more distinct modes of cultural memory, for instance: the “private”and the “pub-
lic”.More broadly, the significance of the archive in shaping the potential for
“memory work”is evident in the field of contemporary journalism that for Barbie
Zelizer (2008: 84), “tends to produce mnemonic work through those news organi-
zations with the most extensive archives”. The digital is at the very least an accel-
erant of this process and one can extend this argument to archives in general and
point to the blurring of amateur and professional journalism and the rise of the
so-called “citizen journalist”(see Gillmor 2006).
5 Memory as unfinished
The future of both active and passive memory, to the extent that one finds these
categories usable, is also being determined with the massive shift to personal
expression ushered in by the Internet and via other means of digital recording and
communication. The nature and potential for the representation and historiciza-
tion of people’s lives has been transformed. For example, much of the information
that biographers have conventionally accessed, and displayed and/or stored in
The mediatization of memory 675
archives and museums was in the form of hard copy, whereas today the traces of
people’s lives are increasingly found in their digital communications. There are a
number of potential consequences of our emergent and everyday sociotechnical
practices on the voracity, preservation, and circulation of such data and thus on
remembering and forgetting. Not only does the unprecedented accessibility of this
digital data make it more vulnerable to manipulation, but the converse is also the
case in the diminished potential for its rediscovery in future times in comparison
with the materiality of its hard-copy predecessors. So, emails, text-messages, and
social networking sites, for example, holding the content of a great mass of private
and semi-public communications, may seem readily-accessible today, but what are
the prospects for the survival of such data in a form and to an extent that is usable
in memory? Paul Arthur (2009: 54–5) for example, argues:
the correspondence between people is increasingly distributed, impermanent and complexly
interlinked. One person’s social networking web page on a networking service is likely to be
characterised by short, code-laden communications from ‘friends’, and the idea of ‘corre-
spondence’ – with the to and fro of information between people –has been lost and replaced
by an unpredictable kind of multiple commentary …The future historian may be confronted
with an apparent void of information on lives that were in fact richly documented, but only
through fleeting digital entries on security encrypted online services.
The instantaneity and simultaneity of some forms of digital communication and
the systemic deletion of many (i.e. email programs set to permanently delete mail
messages after a fixed period) contribute to the diminishment in the number of
unintentional textual traces we leave behind, notably those which were once much
more material, storable (although open to different types of degradation), recovera-
ble, and open to future interpretations and reinterpretations. The temporality, flu-
idity, and availability of digital data more generally –from text messages to emails,
photographs, and video, through to web pages –has facilitated a much more
revocable (and some would argue chaotic) basis for the building of future memory.
For instance, the temporality of images themselves are changing and as
research by Van House has shown, photos are actually becoming less archival:
“while people do still make archival images, many are treated as ephemeral and
transitory, including being used for image-based communication, in effect visual
or multimodal messaging”(Van House and Churchill 2008: 298). Thus the images
made of and in everyday life that will shape tomorrow’s personal and public mem-
ory, are vulnerable to the shifts in today’s sociotechnical practices enabled through
the highly fluid, transferable, and erasable memory-matter of digital data.
It may be that the very prospects for the deletion and disconnection of the
mediatization of memory will actually afford the material objects (and metaphors)
of memory, of photographs, magnetic tape, letters, monuments, etc. greater signifi-
cance. Can then the immateriality of this memory and an investment in and preser-
vation of a materially-authentic past co-exist? Will the “tagging”of images in Flickr
676 Andrew Hoskins
ultimately shape what will become the equivalent of “canon”and “archive”for
those we share our photographs with?
To conclude, it is necessary to take a more radical view of mediatization and
its consequences to illuminate how the very condition of “memory”has trans-
formed and to its emergent possibilities. For example, as Shelia Brown (2003: 22)
argues: “Above all, mediatization in the contemporary sense refers to a universe
in which the meaning of ontological divisions is collapsing: divisions between fact
and fiction, nature and culture, global and local, science and art, technology and
humanity”(original emphasis, cited in Hjarvard 2008: 111). So, whereas the value
of memory was seen through its relationship to a stability, continuity, and rever-
ence of the past, the value of the mediatization of memory is in its potential for
transformation. This is not to deny the paradoxical persistence of the mainstream
icons of the memory boom, that churn 20
-century –and more recent conflicts
and catastrophes –seemingly ever closer to the present through templates and
obsessive commemoration. But hyperconnectivity offers a different kind of mem-
ory, a future-oriented memory boom with new opportunities and uncertainties. So,
as Peter Lunenfeld (2011: 36) suggests: “One metric for the success of a technology,
especially a digital one, is to look at how open it is to unanticipated uses. How
unfinished is it?”Hence, the openness of mediatized memory as it turns on and
in the present, offers an alternative memory boom: an unfinished past and a vital-
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