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Media Memory: Communication about the Past

Media Memory: Communication about the Past

An essential component of current societal self-reflective discourse is to consider how society’s own past is publicly communicated. This also becomes evident throughout the latest “Memory Boom”, which once again proves to us the eminent role that media plays in dealing with the past; media decisively shapes the ways we remember our own history. The “Research Centre” examines the various forms of media as actors of memory culture.

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Project Description

The Research Centre Media History analyses the public communication about the past in the following subprojects:

Memory Building and the Social Web
In all current social processes for establishing identity, a central component is, in fact, communication about the past. This is something that the current “memory boom” is, not least, demonstrating, as it also makes clear what a large role the mass media plays in the negotiation of concepts and interpretations of history in society (see also “Erinnerungskulturen online” by Dörte Hein). The project is enquiring into the role of the social web/web 2.0, investigates the mass media as an actor in the culture of remembrance, links media memory and transnational communication, traces journalistic initiatives in history and researches the status of contemporary witness in media (Media Witnessing). The digitally-networked media too are increasingly entering into what is a particular sphere of activity within the overall culture of memory. In the German-speaking sphere, as well as internationally, Internet projects are evolving, which aim at conserving and communicating (recent) historical contexts, and within this framework, users configure memories, impressions and experiences obviously linked to different expectations towards their communicative actions, either for “the posterity”, as a service for groups or generations, or for personal publics, as documentaries of their everyday life. Based on a survey of the studies existing to date, our goal is to identify gaps in the research, to develop a model for classifying actors, to present criteria for investigating the different contributions from possible communicative accomplishments and, hence, to analyse which of them fulfil the processes of remembering, as users generate them.

Media Memory and Transnational Communication
The Research Centre Media History is a member of the working group “Media Memories and Transcultural Communication” at the Research Center for Media and Communication (RCMC).  The working group is currently working on broadening the horizon regarding memory (media) research, as well as transnational and transcultural communication. Our aim is to theoretically and empirically analyse how media influences the memory of society in the context of transcultural processes.

Mass Media as Actors in Memory Culture
The Research Centre Media History conducts studies on the role of public service broadcasting as an actor in processes of the culture of remembrance at regular intervals. In response to the question, “What remains from televised representations of the Holocaust?”, Juliane Finger and Hans-Ulrich Wagner have developed an integrative approach to empirically linking the perspectives of recipients and journalists in 2014. In their article, they introduce an empirical study, in which the meaning of television for the long-term development of recipients’ mental representation of the Holocaust is being analysed.  We have linked an empirical study on the long-term significance of televised representations for mental images of the holocaust with an investigation of the Majdanek trial through journalistic historiography, or respectively the three-part NDR television documentary “Der Prozeß” [The Trial] by Eberhard Fechner.
In 2011, we published an audio CD in collaboration with the Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv on the media coverage of the Auschwitz Trials by Axel Eggebrecht. The Hamburg journalist Eggebrecht reported regularly from Frankfurt am Main in the years 1963-1965.
See also the research project “Arrival on the Radio.

Project Information


Duration: 2009-2014

Research programme:
RP3 - Knowledge for the Media Society

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner
Senior Researcher Media History

Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner

Forschungsstelle Mediengeschichte
Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17-0

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