Traumatic, cataclysmic events, whether caused by man-made or natural forces, threaten the safety, stability, and resilience of a community or state. Additionally, massive media exposure given to documenting and providing information, place the media consumers at psychological risk. As an alternative to broadcast news reports, online memorials and disaster archives provide the public the means and central locations for witnessing catastrophic events, as well as collectively commemorating and mourning the tragic losses. According to psychological and ethnographic research, narrativizing the trauma through shared memories and artifacts of mourning produce multiple therapeutic benefits, including the likely development of cognitive awareness, empathy, and catharsis. Complicating these benefits, however, are psychological risks of secondary trauma resulting from archiving and curating disaster collections, and the potential for economic and political exploitation. The participatory disaster archives are embedded in trauma culture, serving as public witnesses to survivors of trauma and reinforcing the medical, social, and civic infrastructures associated with a community's recovery from and resilience to calamities. Ironically, the confluence of public archive/memorials with medical and other socio-technical institutions that facilitate recovery from crises, also contribute to trauma culture's sustenance. This dissertation investigates the effects of digitally archiving and memorializing traumatic events through an interdisciplinary methodology of critical cultural studies and ethnography. I argue that participatory disaster archives may both mitigate psychological risks and augment social benefits through adopting protocols of best practice.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Carlton, Patricia, "From Ashes To Ashé: Memorializing Traumatic Events Through Participatory Digital Archives" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5110.