Memories in Context Via Cyber Reminiscing: The Case of Marilyn Monroe

By Low, Kelvin Eng Yong | The Qualitative Report, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Memories in Context Via Cyber Reminiscing: The Case of Marilyn Monroe


Low, Kelvin Eng Yong, The Qualitative Report


This paper attempts to extend the various existing lieux de memoire available hitherto in the perpetuation and (re)construction of social memory by looking at the cyber landscape. Marilyn Monroe as an icon of American popular culture and thus of popular memory in this context is explored, by looking at various select websites designed in commemoration of her stardom. Within this investigation, I also invoke the link between the production of social memory, with frames of remembrance and collective memory that therefore indicates memory as indubitably, a social phenomenon. The value of cyber reminiscing is also addressed briefly, by exploring how the cyber landscape offers as an additional outlet for the perpetuation and maintenance of fan discourse. A short section that ruminates upon the Internet as an entity of postmodernity with regards to the presentation of knowledge and information is also submitted.

Key words: Social Memory, Cyber Reminiscing, Frames of Remembrance, Fan Discourse, and Postmodernity

Introduction

Memory is social, collective, and constantly undergoing (re)construction. (1) With the advent of the Internet, the notion of memory undergoes a further transformation, for no longer are we presented with only print mediums of memory such as biographies and memoirs, or objects as memorabilia and collectibles. Indeed, the Internet extends various lieux de memoire that are available hitherto, ranging from biographies, poetry, songs, monuments, films, to memorabilia, photography and canvas. (2) As "[e]lectronic memories do not admit to forgetfulness and their recollections seem too real to be authentic, they form another class of memory and need interpreting" (Punt 1999, p.42). (3) The cyber landscape thus warrants a re-evaluation of how memory is (re)created and (re)constructed. Here, I address how the cyber medium transmits memories, as it offers a platform for social groups to recollect and commemorate in a myriad of ways. Focusing my discussion on Hollywood siren Marilyn Monroe, I explore how memories in cyberspace are also, like their print/offline counterpart, contextualized, operating within frames of remembrance. Emphasis will be given to websites (4) that commemorate her work and life, showing how such a cyber platform can draw together collective memory via virtual communities, akin to Anderson's (1983) imagined community. The web stands as a public medium where memories of the screen siren are encapsulated, reaching out to fans and general public alike. Undergirding this idea, is a larger project of attempting to demonstrate how popular culture perpetuates in popular memory, captured through what I term as cyber reminiscing. Memories that are constructed within the cyber landscape also point towards collective memory (Halbwachs, 1992), exemplified through the various online fan clubs and discussion forums specifically set up for Marilyn.

This paper therefore, locates scholarship concerning memory and memory processes not merely within such disciplines as psychology or philosophy, but also in sociology, where concerns, inter alia, include understanding the constructions of social reality, identity and community. For memory is indubitably a social phenomenon, forming as a vital and indissoluble part of social identity. The act of remembering and presenting the past is essentially selective. Hence, this paper strives also, to unpack social constructions of social memory within the larger context of popular culture and popular memory. To this end, the cyber medium as a tool of perpetuating and (re)constructing social memory is thus explored and analyzed, thereby ameliorating our understanding of social memory by looking not merely at print mediums of memory transmission, but also the cyber landscape, in a bid to extend various lieux de memoire that are available hitherto.

In order to study how popular memory of Marilyn Monroe transpires via cyber reminiscing, I employ a method (ology) termed as discourse analysis. …

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