I’m still mulling over a question Mary Elizabeth asked us in class a few weeks ago, to paraphrase, is tecnological media temporary or permanent? I think I still don’t know what the answer is because I want it to be both, depending on the information.
A little over a week ago, on Easter Sunday, my niece died. Sorry to be maudlin, but thems the breaks. She was 24, a giggly, vibrant personality who loved her family and all things purple. She had been sick for a while, I’m not going to go into details, but we thought things were getting better. My immediate reaction, after a good cry and ordering food to bring up to her mom and dad’s place, was to go on facebook. Molly lived a good chunk of her life there when things were good. You could tell if she was in an upbeat mood because she would post a lot. For me, and for her siblings, cousins and friends, the wake virtually began on facebook. It continues today.
Oddly enough, “she” appears more on my facebook feed now than ever before as she is tagged in her friends photos. I’ve realized through all of this that the beauty of social media is not the connection piece, but that the participants are the media themselves. Each of Molly’s friends actively choose to post and tag her in photos, inspirational quotes or wall postings. Based on what they select, I see Molly through their eyes. They are a medium for getting to know my niece from the perspective of a party girl, an aunt, a friend.
What I’m going through, the constant combing of information on her reminds me of Walter Benjamin’s exercise of recreating 19th century Paris, as outlined in Huhttamo & Parikka’s Introduction. Benjamin used a variety media; texts, diagrams, pamphlets from public events, and “emblematic objects” (whatever those may be) to recreate the culture of a city he knew at a particular time. In my own way, I find myself doing an archaeological dig through the online media of my niece, whom I knew as a child, drifted away from in her teenage years, and knew as a family member, not really a friend, to understand who she was. In a way, we preserve personae of ourselves, a version, on social media. What’s interesting is that a fuller, richer picture appears through the media of our friends and family.
In terms of media archaeology, I hope in this case that technology does become timeless. I like to think that our personalities are preserved somewhere in the virtual world of the internet, so a spark of connection to memory remains.