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Communicating Memory & History

Edited By Nicole Maurantonio and David W. Park

Communicating Memory & History takes as its mission the job of giving communication history its full due in the study of memory. Taking three keywords—communication, history, and memory—representing related, albeit at times hostile, fields of inquiry as its point of departure, this book asks how the interdisciplinary field of memory studies can be productively expanded through the work of communication historians. Across the chapters of this book, contributors employ methods ranging from textual analysis to reception studies to prompt larger questions about how the past can be alternately understood, contested, and circulated.

Communicating Memory & History is ideal for teaching, including case studies that elaborate different ways to approach issues in memory studies. While some foundational knowledge would be useful, it is possible to use the text without extensive knowledge of the literature. This book is of particular interest to professors, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students of communication and media studies, as well as scholars and students in cultural studies, history, and sociology—disciplines where one finds steady consideration of issues related to communication, communication history, and memory.

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4. Mass Media as Memory Agents: A Theoretical and Empirical Contribution to Collective Memory Research (Michael Meyen)


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4. Mass Media as Memory Agents: A Theoretical and Empirical Contribution to Collective Memory Research



Using the example of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and grounded in both Assmann’s theory of collective memory and Foucault’s discourse analysis, this chapter will conceptualize and empirically study mass media as memory agents. To be more concrete, the present study will answer two questions by combining data drawn from a qualitative content analysis and focus group interviews: What does the cultural memory of the GDR as represented in mass media look like? And how do these representations of the past influence communicative memory? This chapter’s attention to GDR narratives as they emerge in both mass media and in daily conversations across divergent societal milieus allows me to develop some observations regarding the mass media’s power to shape communicative memory.

There is a widely-shared consensus that collective memory and remembering could not exist without media. This includes memory conversations in families and photo albums as well as history and storybooks, museums, and other physical representations of the past such as Nora’s commemoration sites.1 However, quite surprisingly and in contrast to social media and other forms of mediated personal communication,2 memory research has rather neglected modern mass media such as the daily press, radio, and TV, although there is evidence of journalists’ agency in the memory shaping processes.3 Covering the past, mass media deliver memory cues (Aleida...

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