Telling his­to­ry differently

Launch of the EVZ program digital // memory in the iRights.Lab Palazzo

At the event introducing the digital // memory program, initiated by the Stiftung "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft"(Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ),
discussions focused on how new digital tools can contribute to a contemporary culture of remembrance, as well as on how to counter hate speech and anti-Semitism online. The iRights.Lab has partnered with the EVZ to develop and implement a program to accompany digital // memory. The event, under the title “Let's make history! Tackling Hate Speech and Anti-Semitism in the Digital Age,” focused on some of the core issues facing digital // memory. At stake is nothing less than the development of new digital formats for historical-political education.

Atten­dees were wel­comed to the iRightsLab.Palazzo con­fer­ence room by Dr. Andreas Eber­hardt, Chair­man of EVZ, and Dr. Wiebke Gläss­er, Head of Oper­a­tions at iRights.Lab. The main pro­gram was mod­er­at­ed by Lil­ian Emonds from iRights.Lab. It opened with an intro­duc­tion to the four projects from Ger­many and two from Poland that were financed by the pro­gram. Emonds invit­ed the project rep­re­sen­ta­tives onstage, where they pre­sent­ed the dig­i­tal resources they are cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing. In addi­tion, they dis­cussed the chal­lenges fac­ing his­tor­i­cal-polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion in Ger­many and Poland and the ways in which they believe dig­i­tal tools can con­tribute to main­tain­ing a cul­ture of remem­brance, even as this cul­ture is enter­ing a peri­od of flux as a result of the dig­i­tal­iza­tion of soci­ety at large.

Sebas­t­ian Tröger (Nurem­berg Munic­i­pal Museums/​Documentation Cen­ter Nazi Party Rally Grounds) pre­sent­ed a seri­ous game called “Behind the Scenes: Nürn­berg ’34,” which he is devel­op­ing as part of a team, that aims to help users engage with the Nazi Party con­gress of 1934. The goal is to ques­tion and crit­i­cal­ly reflect on Nazi pro­pa­gan­da as a con­struc­tion. Alic­ja Wancerz-Gluza (KARTA Cen­tre, War­saw) described how she and her team plan on devel­op­ing an inter­ac­tive film about Pol­ish-Jew­ish rela­tions in Mordy since 1918. The hope is that through the engage­ment with his­tor­i­cal events and per­son­al­i­ties con­tem­po­rary Pol­ish-Jew­ish rela­tions can be strength­ened. Mona Brandt (Stiftung Dig­i­tale Spielekul­tur gGmbH, Berlin) then described how she and her col­leagues are tack­ling the ques­tion of how com­put­er games could sub­stan­tial­ly con­tribute to a cul­ture of remem­brance 4.0. To this end, the project plans to carry out a pitch jam to bring actors from the field of his­tor­i­cal-polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion togeth­er with new dig­i­tal part­ners. Mał­gorza­ta Leszko (Cen­trum Edukacji Oby­wa­tel­skiej, War­saw) and her project team work close­ly with schools in Poland to cre­ate mul­ti­me­dia reports. By engag­ing with their own local his­to­ry, pupils are dri­ven to crit­i­cal­ly exam­ine present-day forms of group-based enmi­ty and exclu­sion. Céline Wen­del­gaß (Anne Frank Edu­ca­tion­al Cen­ter, Frank­furt a.M.) pre­sent­ed the project “The Game’s Not Over,” anoth­er seri­ous game that her insti­tu­tion is devel­op­ing in coop­er­a­tion with var­i­ous part­ners. It aims to give young peo­ple and edu­ca­tion­al spe­cial­ists in par­tic­u­lar the tools to bet­ter deal with rad­i­cal­iza­tion, anti-Semi­tism and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on social media. Final­ly, Björn Klein (Uni­ver­si­ty of Edu­ca­tion FHNW, Muttenz/​Switzerland) explained how he and his team are work­ing on the ODRA sys­tem (Ord­nen, Deuten, Richtig­stellen, Annähern/​Order, Inter­pret, Rec­ti­fy, Approach), a Social Media Rapid Reac­tion Unit, which is designed to employ crawlers to fil­ter out fake news on the basis of objec­tive criteria.

The experts Prof. Dr. Mag­dale­na Waligórs­ka (Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men, Insti­tute for His­tor­i­cal Stud­ies), Stef­fen Jost (Dachau Memo­r­i­al) and Johannes Bal­dauf (Pol­i­cy Pro­grams Man­ag­er, Face­book) then dis­cussed how the use of inno­v­a­tive tools can con­tribute to the strength­en­ing of democ­ra­cy, how his­to­ry can be taught dig­i­tal­ly, and how tar­get audi­ences can be active­ly involved. Bal­dauf opened the panel dis­cus­sion by explain­ing that the dig­i­tal age offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to direct­ly address tar­get groups that were pre­vi­ous­ly dif­fi­cult to reach or define. On the other hand, a fun­da­men­tal dis­cus­sion must be had regard­ing whom one wants to reach: the dis­sem­i­na­tors of hate speech or those affect­ed by it. In the end, the answer to these ques­tions deter­mines where fund­ing and other resources are to be direct­ed. The ensu­ing dis­cus­sion revealed that a great deal of ground­work still needs to be laid in the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of new dig­i­tal for­mats: Waligórs­ka point­ed out, for exam­ple, that his­to­ri­ans still adopt a wait-and-see approach to dig­i­tal for­mats and that there are major dif­fer­ences in cul­tures of remem­brance between coun­tries, such as Poland and Ger­many, which must be taken into account. Jost, on the other hand, argued that memo­ri­als need to take a more bold and proac­tive approach to deal­ing with social media. Not only should memo­ri­als them­selves offer new dig­i­tal for­mats, but vis­i­tors should also be able to exper­i­ment with social media in pro­cess­ing and shar­ing their indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences of vis­it­ing memorials.

A web-based live-feed­back sys­tem enabled the audi­ence to par­tic­i­pate direct­ly in the dis­cus­sions and sub­mit ques­tions to the project teams and the panel par­tic­i­pants. Dur­ing a work­shop on the fol­low­ing day, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the indi­vid­ual projects revis­it­ed the var­i­ous points dis­cussed dur­ing the launch event and were given the oppor­tu­ni­ty to net­work through in-depth dis­cus­sions, iden­ti­fy­ing com­mon themes and chal­lenges impact­ing the fur­ther imple­men­ta­tion of their projects. 

Fur­ther infor­ma­tion on dig­i­tal // mem­o­ry can be found here

A photo gallery of the event can be found here.

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