Mundane Memories. Practices and representations of remembering in everyday life. A KCL workshop
Date: 27 November 2015
Place: Somerset House East Wing (SW 1.09)
Organisation: Christian Pentzold, Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries in cooperation with Anna Reading, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries
List of speakers
Mikka Lene Per Hojholt, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries
Sarah Lewis, Department of English
Dirk vom Lehn, Department of Management
Eleni Papargyriou, Centre for Hellenic Studies
Christian Pentzold, Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin
Didem Ozkul, University of the Arts London/LSE
Anna Reading, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries
Upholding daily life is about keeping and recurring records, taking notes and planning the proximate future. Given this continuing dimension of civilisation and cohabitation, the workshop explores the interplay between the practices and representations of the day-to-day activities of remembering and the media forms and technologies people had or have at hand to accomplish the scaffolding of everyday life.
Since the beginnings of human culture, techniques and tools have been devised to schedule and manage the temporal relations that connect people, places, events and things. The workshop seeks to look at the daily routines of scheduling and recalling that arguably make up a core part of people’s quotidian occupations. It is also interested in representations of such practices as they can be found in artistic works, social organisations or in the affordances of media forms and technologies, both in historic and current perspective.
Notions of memory and ideas about evoking or revoking the past thread through twentieth-century thought. Yet over the past two decades, the study of memory and remembering has gained momentum to become a cardinal area of study not only in the newly established ‘memory studies’ but in humanities and social sciences as well as in other fields of inquiry. This growing theoretical and empirical interest in the construction, form, transfer and contestation of memory has animated a burgeoning body of literatures that use different sets of monikers like individual memory, personal memory, family memory, collective memory or cultural memory. As such, they often address a host of cognate though incoherent issues like national identity, trauma or nostalgia.
Notwithstanding their diverse angles, these different approaches commonly choose to study memories on the large scale meant to bridge rather extensive temporal distances – at least in human time. Even when interrogating memories of the mundane articulated in acts of commemoration, communicative recollections or oral history, they are mostly preoccupied with the long-term reverberations of memory.
What is largely overlooked, then, are the kinds of ordinary phenomena mundane memories are made of. The routines of keeping and recurring records, taking notes or planning the proximate future as well as representations thereof and the tools used to accomplish such activities often seem neither especially consequential nor important. Yet in its ordinariness, day-to-day remembering knits together the activities, events, relations, materials and places of quotidian life along the chronological axis of past, present and future. Through this, mundane memories help to accomplish a sense of order, continuity and ‘ontological security’ (Giddens). Mundane memories therefore are a recurring trivial issue and a pervasive exercise in which we find ourselves immersed. Often, they are mediated through material relations involving ordinary everyday objects and technologies. Rather than being of merely parochial interest then, mundane memories arrange and enable daily occupations in all walks of life. As such, their practices have become a topic of cultural representations and artistic reflection, too.
Taken together, these features of mundane memories give rise to a series of possible questions that can form part of the workshop’s discussion:
- What are the disciplinary understandings of the mundanity of memories and how could their differences and similarities be made productive?
- Through which practices do mundane memories come into being and how do they differ and perhaps conflict in time, across cultures or between social sectors and institutions?, How are such practices established, passed on and ordered?
- How are mundane memories and memories of the mundane reflected in artistic and literary work(s)?
- How do practices and presentations of mundane memories interact and what role is ascribed to media forms and technologies in accomplishing mundane memories?
- What ambitions and expectations are associated with the organisation of mundane memories, for instance, in terms of efficiency, expedition or scale?
- How can mundane memories be usefully studied?
Contributions and outcomes
The event is a half-day workshop or ‘research kitchen’ so to present and discuss perspectives from junior and senior members of KCL faculty. The workshop should facilitate open exchange and informal discussion of different perspectives.
Therefore, starting from a general idea rather than a particular theory or empirical field, the workshop has two major aims: First, it seeks to bring together diverse types of scholarship so to explore the range of resonating topics and concepts from different agendas. In sum, they should provide a brief overview of a particular perspective or approach and, at best, engage with some of the questions above. Second, building on that it should consider the theme’s potential to establish a framework for research that could span different disciplines across KCL departments. Building on the insights, references and potential provocations, the discussion should focus on common topics and connections between the perspectives presented.
From there, schemes for external research funding are to be explored.
Plan of the workshop
1 pm – 1.30 pm Welcome and Idea
1.30 pm – 3.00 pm Introducing and connecting perspectives
Anna Reading: Save As…Love
This paper draws on new empirical research conducted this year on the ways in which digital migrants who are parents use mobile phones and social media to recall apparently mundane aspects of the everyday in relation to parenting. The paper contends that mobile and social media enable the mobilisation of the seemingly routine aspects of the everyday care of children, thus giving mnemonic value to hitherto unrecorded and undervalued aspects of child care and household work. At the same time, mobile and social media intervene into everyday life in ways that then disrupt intimate relationships. The paper utilizes Anna Reading’s concept of the globital memory field to explain how memory is a combination of the energetic and material and in the digitised and globalised war globital era memories are inhabited by us and inhabit us. The paper draws on research conducted at South London primary school in February 2015 and compares this with an earlier study conducted in 2006.
Mikka Lene Per Hojholt: Broadcasting one(s)self as a mother. Multiple perspectives and ‘telling by doing’ in YouTube interaction
Online platforms are commonly studied as sites of vernacular culture and creativity. In my presentation, I discuss how new media technologies remediate everyday practices of self-documentation and influence the way we reflect on and make sense of who we are. Using the so-called MommyTube community on YouTube as my point of departure, I specifically examine how mothers engage with affordances and constraints of social media to story motherhood in remediated ways. The MommyTube community is organised around vlogs (video-blogs) posted by YouTube-Mommies, who document and share mundane activities of their everyday lives as mothers. In my presentation, I will show how participants in this community construct dynamic and interactive digital archives on YouTube by focusing on the temporality involved in these highly relational practices of memory work. I will also discuss how YouTube-Mommies make use of the affordances of audio-visual user-generated content to story their day-to-day activities as mothers through what I identify as a “telling by doing” format. Furthermore, drawing on my on-going PhD project, I will reflect on how these everyday practices of documenting motherhood can be methodologically approached.
Didem Ozkul: Urban spatial encounters and mediated memories: the role of mobile media as tools of remembering and memory-making
The mobility and ubiquity of mobile technology facilitated its ability to serve as recording devices and memory makers, just like cameras and diaries. They are increasingly appropriated into our everyday lives, and they become important tools for creating and reflexively engaging with our memories and places. Especially, location-aware features of mobile communication technologies (such as “geo-tagging” a photo, “checking in” to a place using a smartphone application, or simply using Google Maps application on a mobile device to navigate in a city) allow users to attach place-specific information to many mediated practices. Hence mobile media can sometimes act as tools for remembering not only particular places, but most importantly, remembering and exercising things in the past such as social relationships, childhood memories or a short city break. Additionally, used this way, mobile media offer their users novel and creative ways of preserving the past, allowing it to be remembered in the future (for the future self). These new ways of preserving the past may be in the form of creating an autobiography to remind our future selves where we come from and how we used to be. This brings elements of nostalgia to one’s everyday life. Sometimes we consciously create our autobiographical life narratives, intending to hang onto a moment, or simply because the technology automatically saves our past, we unconsciously preserve our pasts. Situating itself within the intersection of above-mentioned discussions on memory, place, media, this paper discusses the mutual shaping of memory and media through place. It focuses on the significance of place and spatial practices in memory and meaning-making. Drawing on the notions of memory work and mediated memories, this paper seeks to understand what role mobile media play as tools of remembering and memory-making in defining and shaping our understanding of our selves and our urban spatial encounters.
Sarah Lewis: ‘[T]he calendar of my past endeavours’: remembering selves on the early modern stage
I am interested in examining the temporal scaffolding of everyday life in the early modern period in England, and analysing the tools people used on a day-to-day basis both to remember what had passed or was passing, and to plan for both the proximate and long-term futures. How are commonplace books, almanacs, and calendars used to structure the past (and particularly, the sense of a past self) and plan for the future (or for future selves)? How do men and women use these tools differently? I am particularly interested in how these processes of remembering and planning are presented in early modern drama. How is the process of remembering or forecasting the quotidian as opposed to the exceptional (which is often historicised or prophesised) presented on the early modern stage? And how is day-to-day remembering and planning used to define specific theatrical identities in these plays?
Eleni Papargyriou: How the mundane becomes extraordinary: resignifying routine in the Greek economic crisis
This presentation aims at rewinding the concept of mundaneness by dwelling on its disruptions. What happens when critical circumstances call for the violent and unexpected transformation of the mundane into a novelty? What happens when routines surprise us, when they essentially stop being routines? How do we signify objects anew? And to what extent does the recording process tap into or even prompt this transformation? I will illustrate these concerns using concise photographic and literary examples from the work by the Greek novelist/photographer Christos Chryssopoulos, who has been obsessively recording his flânerie in deprived areas of Athens. I will particularly focus on processes of re-signifying urban artefacts and what this means in the context of the Greek economic crisis.
Dirk vom Lehn: Remembering and Recalling in Interaction: the systematic use of ‘memory’ in museums and optometric consultations
The short paper will begin to explore how participants in museums and in optometric consultations systematically use ‘memory’ and memory devices to organise their interaction. It will suggest a few lines of enquiry for further research that might lead to research project and proposals with colleagues. The analysis draws on video-recordings in exhibitions and in optometric consultations.
Christian Pentzold: ‘I’m not looking for work. The work finds me’: Editorial routines, task routing and machinepower in Wikipedia
Looking at the work that goes into writing and organising Wikipedia, I will discuss the procedures and infrastructures authors use to produce and exploit records of editing routines so to prearrange further contributions. Hence, rather than fostering free and unsettled volunteer participation, the project rests on a critical mass of users who follow set routes and employ a range of semi-automatic tools so to fulfil menial tasks and janitorial duties in keeping the project going. Thus, I argue that zooming in on the mundane memory work of Wikipedians helps to appreciate both the ordinariness of their involvement and the effort that goes into maintaining the open project on a daily basis.
3.00 pm – 3.30 pm Tea and Coffee
3.30 pm – 5.00 pm Exploring common themes and areas of inquiry
5.00 pm – 5.30 pm Wrap-Up
Contact and information
The workshop is organised by Christian Pentzold, Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries (CMCI), in collaboration with Professor Anna Reading from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries.
Any inquiries and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org