Platform Capitalism and Digital Practices of Commemoration

Tomasz Łysak (University of Warsaw)

Taking the concept of "platform capitalism" (Srnicek) as a point of departure, I identify the ecosystems in which new actors in Holocaust commemoration are competing for attention, honing their creative skills in the area of visual images and the application of algorithms as well as conveying history lessons to new audiences. I argue for a need to combine interest in the production and promotion of digital content with wider trends in contemporary forms of capitalism as the ecosystem of commemoration. I will analyze the usefulness of different digital platforms in commemoration. This usefulness is defined by factors such as the ease of finding content, the relevance of the content found, and the gap between specialized sites and more general ones--all of which will inform future studies in the field. For this presentation, I will discuss two platforms: YouTube as the most popular video sharing site in the world at the moment and Flickr as a dethroned king of attaining visibility for aspiring photographers. My main goal is to demonstrate how rank-and-file users of the internet (as opposed to relatives of the survivors or professionals working in the field of commemoration) strive to turn their visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum into an opportunity to try their hand at commemoration and boost their visibility online.

In order to carry out research on these platforms, one has to gain a level of familiarity with their respective business models, interfaces, user cultures, and user experience (either by creating a profile and uploading content or by observing the activity and interactions of other users). Therefore, any search for academic literature on digital platforms and their suitability as a vehicle of cultural memory should occur while familiarizing oneself with their modus operandi. The research method applied herein is based on Kozinets's netnography and aggregates the available data in order to study the efforts to represent the former concentration camp and/or to elevate one's status as a content creator by travlling to a world-famous historical site. The question remains: is this shift in commemorative practices a welcome change in the sphere of public memory?

TripAdvisor Reviews of Holocaust Museums in Belarus and Poland: A Data-Driven Cultural Sociology Approach

Ilya Sulzhytski (University of Greifswald | European Humanities University)

In the three decades after the end of the Soviet Union, the memory of the Holocaust finally became an object of separate study, public attention, and commemoration in Eastern Europe. While Holocaust memory, unquestionably, laid the foundation for a common European memory framework, it was almost absent in the memory cultures of the region. Being occupied with the (re)construction of national narratives and traumas, the "new" Eastern European nations (such as Belarus and Poland) only slowly begin to acknowledge the specific role and fate of their perished Jewish neighbors.

To understand the current trends of digitalization of Holocaust memory, recent publications emphasize the possibilities of using machine learning and social media analysis. However, existing research has neither a clear regional focus (for example, on the digital memory of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe) nor the comparative perspective or specific cultural contextualization and historicization that my study will add. In contrast to the traditional historical or cultural analysis of the memory politics in these countries, in general and Holocaust memory, in particular, my sociological study will combine the tools of Digital Humanities and Data Science. The project aims at the comparative analysis of preservation, representation, and transmission of  Holocaust memory at Belarusian and Polish Holocaust museums, using a comparative cultural sociology approach and modern computer technologies for analyzing TripAdvisor review data.

Combining natural language processing (thematic modelling, sentiment analysis) methods and a cultural sociology approach to memory studies allowsed me to identify and visualize the major themes and categories that emerge from the Belarusian and Polish sites of memory. I determined the main meaning-structures (e.g., "sacred pure" vs. "profane") and semantic networks within which the sites of memory are interpreted and represented in the respective national memorial discourse: themes, concepts, actors, affective regimes, and emotional markers.

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