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Forgotten as data – remembered through information. Social memory institutions in the digital age: the case of the Europeana Initiative

Marton, Attila (2011) Forgotten as data – remembered through information. Social memory institutions in the digital age: the case of the Europeana Initiative. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The study of social memory has emerged as a rich field of research closely linked to cultural artefacts, communication media and institutions as carriers of a past that transcends the horizon of the individual’s lifetime. Within this domain of research, the dissertation focuses on memory institutions (libraries, archives, museums) and the shifts they are undergoing as the outcome of digitization and the diffusion of online media. Very little is currently known about the impact that digitality and computation may have on social memory institutions, specifically, and social memory, more generally – an area of study that would benefit from but, so far, has been mostly overlooked by information systems research. The dissertation finds its point of departure in the conceptualization of information as an event that occurs through the interaction between an observer and the observed – an event that cannot be stored as information but merely as data. In this context, memory is conceived as an operation that filters, thus forgets, the singular details of an information event by making it comparable to other events according to abstract classification criteria. Against this backdrop, memory institutions are institutions of forgetting as they select, order and preserve a canon of cultural heritage artefacts. Supported by evidence from a case study on the Europeana initiative (a digitization project of European libraries, archives and museums), the dissertation reveals a fundamental shift in the field of memory institutions. The case study demonstrates the disintegration of 1) the cultural heritage artefact, 2) its standard modes of description and 3) the catalogue as such into a steadily accruing assemblage of data and metadata. Dismembered into bits and bytes, cultural heritage needs to be re-membered through the emulation of recognizable cultural heritage artefacts and momentary renditions of order. In other words, memory institutions forget as binary-based data and remember through computational information.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Attila Marton
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Kallinikos, Jannis

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