20 July 2009

Cultural tools and interaction

Collective memory is usually mediated through textual resources provided by others (Wertsch, 1998, 2002; Wertsch & Roediger III, 2008a, 2008b). These narratives function as mediations between the events and our understanding of those events. That is to say, collective memory is not necessarily based on individual’s direct experience. For this perspective of “mediated action”, to speak, to think, among many other ways of human actions, imply a tension between actors and “cultural tools” as language and narrative texts. This does not mean that “cultural tools” mechanically determine people’s behaviour, although it is crucial to acknowledge the strong influence that they have.
Individual and collective memories are distributed between social actors and texts. This leads us to focus on the way in which social actors and cultural tools interact in a specific social context, rather than to focus on examining how cultural tools such as textbooks construct discursive representations of the past, or, on the other hand, the way in which people perform the same action.
Textual narratives that constitute collective memory are tools used to organise and reconstruct an account of the past. Instead of functioning as receptacles of precise and permanent information, these texts function by indicating what should be said by an individual or group in the community. National states are not the only responsible for supplying the modern world with collective memories. However, it should be pointed out that they do play a central role in shaping what should be remembered and what is better to be forgotten due to their power and amount of resources addressed to this issue.
Remembering can be thought of as a mediated action, which implies the interaction between social actors and cultural tools. It is not an action performed only by isolated individuals, or only by cultural tools. Both elements must be related to each other, always taking into consideration that perhaps that relation is in tension. This process has some implications, perhaps the most important is that as cultural tools reflect a sociocultural setting, mediated remembering is also situated in a sociocultural context. As indicated above, scholars from this perspective are focussed on the process of remembering, rather than on collective memory itself. For this reason, they prefer to talk about collective remembering as opposed to collective memory. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that collective memory is distributed and in flux between individuals and cultural tools.
To conclude, according to this approach, there is a differentation between collective memory and collective knowledge of the past. First, collective memory belongs to an identity project which often displays a picture of heroism, victimhood, etc. in detriment to collective knowledge of the past which aspires to arrive at objective truth, regardless of the consequences and second, collective memory is usually impatient with ambiguity, ignoring counterevidence in order to preserve the established narrative to maintain group cohesion as opposed to collective knowledge of the past which generally recognises complexity and ambiguity revising existing narratives in light of new evidence.


Ola Zasepa-Bietti said...

Very interesting perspective.
Osobiscie uwazam jednak, iz pamiec kolektywna nigdy nie powinna byc widziana tylko z tej jednej perspektywy. Perspektywa indywidualna oraz wszelkie okolicznosci, w jakich znajduje i znajdowala sie tak jednostka, jak i grupa, powinna zawsze byc brana pod uwage przy analizie dyskursu.

Lucas Bietti said...

Thanks for your very very understandable comment.

Ola Zasepa-Bietti said...

I am so sorry, I thought you would understand!