Envisioning socially inclusive futures of memory making

By Cassandra and Dydimus

The rising impacts of COVID19 coincide with an increasing need to understand the interrelation between memory work and social inclusion in a digitally mediated ecology. With most people currently still experiencing physical distancing, understanding who and how people access digital resources and stay socially and culturally connected has significance for future memory work. At the fifth Knowledge Hub we discussed how our own experiences and findings may have significance for socially inclusive memory work and memory making. Together, we reflected on how these findings and experiences are situated in relation to the past, the present and the future. However, in these discussions we also critically reflected on our positioning as researchers, questioning from whose perspective and definition do we envision and understand both ‘future making’ and ‘social inclusion’. Gertraud Koch, in her introductory welcome to the Knowledge Hub, discussed  how social inclusion and future making is multifaceted: There are many faces, shadows and contingencies in and of future making and social inclusion. This perspective was shared by Jérémy Lachal, who in his virtual lecture suggested that regardless of the best intentions sometimes our ideals can fail. Regarding social inclusion, Jérémy described through his experiences at Libraries without Borders how it is crucial to cultivate hope, and to foster local knowledge, abilities and imaginings which can drive social cohesion and bring futures nearer. Despite potential failure, both Jérémy and Gertraud emphasized the importance of perseverance, learning and trying again to live up to our ideals and meet those of others.

Within the thematic context of future envisioning and digital media ecologies, what does “social impact” mean? How can we measure it and why should we measure it in the first place? These are open questions that came up during our recent ‘measuring social impact’ training session and which the POEM network will continue to explore. However, as laid out in this workshop led by Peter Schubert, social impact is heavily entwined with the process and as such, is not only something to be measured at the end of our projects. It is also a process of building partnerships, trust, friendships and co-creating knowledge through participatory work and shared concerns and aims.

Understanding how these processes happen is also essential, because, as Inga-Lill Aronsson (Uppsala University) suggests in her article below, we must critically understand participation in relation to relevancy, quality, and context. As reflected in the contributions to this newsletter, the value of the POEM partnerships and participatory processes have and will continue to spin off in unexpected and valuable ways, including what might be the result of the disruptive period of Covid19. For example, despite Myrto’s secondment with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA) being cut short due to the pandemic, she was able to continue researching and constructing knowledge on their dissemination of digital objects.

The creation of useful knowledge can also emerge through surprise encounters such as at symposia or through inspirational partnerships like Angeliki’s experiences with Open Knowledge Finland which had a profound impact on her thinking. Partnerships, as shown in Inge’s contribution below, can also help contribute to a feeling of routine during crisis and even grow through the maintenance of contact and meaningful conversations. Participatory methodologies such as in the co-creative reuse of objects as suggested through Franziska’s research can reveal unexpected motivations and outcomes that are important for the museum field at large. Importantly, these ideas are also being expressed in collaborative ways not only through scientific publications (listed below) but also through exhibitions, podcasts and interviews.

While these relationships and the processes involved may seem significant to us due to their valuable and emotional dimension, time will tell time what value they will hold in the future. At this moment, we can only envision this future or what some have referred to as the ‘new world’ or the ‘Covid-free’ world. For now, we feel extraordinarily lucky to be a part of the process of what comes after and are currently planning our next steps. For the POEM network these steps include building the ‘POEM Model’ through contrasting the preliminary findings of the 13 projects in a collaborative effort by fellows and supervisors. The POEM network is also beginning to plan for an empirical validation session next year, for which we would like to extend an open invitation to anyone interested in taking part to contact us via our project address poem.gwiss@uni-hamburg.de.

Dydimus and Cassandra are POEM fellows based at Uppsala University and Glasgow University respectively. They have pleasure to periodically compile, edit and share this Newsletter with you. For feedback and contributions to the Newsletter, you can reach them at dydimus.zengenene@abm.uu.se and Cassandra.Kist@glasgow.ac.uk.


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POEM Uni Hamburg

Concepts, strategies and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European Societies through culture.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764859.