Mobile Memories: Canadian Cultural Memory in the Digital Age

Title: Mobile Memories: Canadian Cultural Memory in the Digital Age
Authors: Montague, Amanda
Date: 2019-07-22
Abstract: This dissertation considers the impact mobile media technologies have on the production and consumption of memory narratives and cultural memory discourses in Canada. Although this analysis pays specific attention to concepts of memory, heritage, and public history in its exploration of site-specific digital narratives, it is set within a larger theoretical framework that considers the relationship between mobile technology and place, and how the mobile phone in particular can foster both a sense of place and placelessness. This larger framework also includes issues of co-presence, networked identity, play, affect, and the phenomenological relationship between the individual and the mobile device. This is then considered alongside memory narratives (both on the national and quotidian levels) at specifically sanctioned sites of national commemoration (monuments, historic sites) and also in everyday urban spaces. To this end, this dissertation covers a wide range of augmented reality apps and forms of digital storytelling including locative media narratives, site-specific digital performances, social media and crowdsourced heritage archives, and urban mobile gaming and playful mapping. Despite common criticism that mobile phones only serve to distract us from our surrounding environment, I argue that mobile technology can generate deeper, more affective attachments to places by reformulating ways of perceiving and moving through them. They do this by insisting that place is more than just its material properties, but rather is composed of a fluctuating relationship between materiality, time, and affect. Following this framework, I also emphasize how mobile technology shifts the traditional mission of the archive to preserve and protect the past to something more playful, more affective, and more preoccupied with the circulation of the past in the present. Included in this analysis are crowdsourced archives created on social media platforms which, I argue, are particularly well suited to capturing the dynamic qualities of memory and living heritage practices. A contributing factor in this is the mobile phone’s position as a site of intimacy and co-presence, which situates it in a long history of communication technologies that employ rhetorical and technological strategies of co-presence, immediacy, and intimacy. Chapter one examines the role that locative media narratives play at official sites of memory in Canada’s capital region from app-based historical tours to more playful narrative encounters, through the lens of the archive and the repertoire. Chapter two then considers the digital site-specific performance piece, LANDLINE, to unpack how mobile media foster everyday place memories in urban spaces through the mobile phone’s position as a site of intimacy for geographically distant, but virtually co-present, individuals. Chapter three analyzes my own experimental method, Maplibs, which follows a mobile game structure to encourage participants to engage in acts of playful placemaking and collaborative storytelling in order to highlight an alternative process of engaging with place that carries the past forward in meaningful ways. And finally, chapter four analyzes the social media group “Lost Ottawa” to explore how collaborative memory communities mobilize through social media platforms like Facebook and create new forms of participatory heritage. In all of this, place is understood as a dynamic assemblage of stories and memories that the mobile phone, through its ubiquitous impact on social practices, plays a key role in shaping.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -