Institute News

Digital Approaches to Genocide Studies Conference Preview: “Social Media, Genocide and Augmented Reality”

USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research’s academic conference “Digital Approaches to Genocide Studies” gets fully underway with a panel about how social media and augmented reality technology have changed the way we commemorate genocide and experience genocide memorials and museums.

The panel is titled “Social Media, Genocide and Augmented Reality” and is on the first day of the conference, Oct. 23, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the USC Doheny Memorial Library lecture hall room 240.

First, Tomasz Lysak will present his recent research with a team sponsored by the National Programme for the Development of the Humanities in Poland, centering on studying the Holocaust in popular and digital culture. In his presentation, Lysak will use popular fitness model/athlete Heidi Somers’ vlog of her visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum last summer “as an example of an autobiographical documentary and an opportunity to study tourist/Internet-user behavior at the Museum,” Lysak said. “My presentation takes up important questions of intermediality, and the ethics of representation and expression that are at the heart of the field.”

Maria Zalewska, who recently completed a summer graduate research fellowship at the Center for Advanced Genocide Research, will present next, about two things that don’t appear on the surface to have much in common: Pokemon and Auschwitz. Zalewska’s presentation will center on the contemporary entanglements of media memory in the digital age, using the popular augmented reality game Pokemon Go in which players “catch” digital Pokemon characters in the real world.

“Reflecting upon the notion of digital wayfaring that conceptualizes our contemporary entanglements between on- and offline practices, my presentation focuses on new encounters between augmented reality technologies, spaces of memory and places of commemoration,” Zalewska said. “By analyzing such phenomena as the 2016 Pokemon Go craze and the controversy of catching Pokemon in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., my presentation focuses on the relationship between spaces of memory and places of commemoration in the digital age.”

Finally, Timothy Williams will discuss the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia and how visitors’ experiences have been impacted by the museum’s introduction of a new audio guide. To fuel his research, Williams has been reviewing comments left by visitors on the travel recommendation website tripadvisor.com, specifically comparing comments left prior to and after the introduction of the audio guide. He’ll take a sample of the 7,924 reviews made on the page as of January 10, 2017, and study them using qualitative content analysis.