My dissertation, “Hashtag Holocaust: Memory in the Age of Multimedia,” examines photographs on the social media sites Flickr and Instagram and how visitors choose to portray their visits to the former Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Neuengamme, and Sachsenhausen on those platforms. Using the theoretical and methodological frameworks of collective memory, dark tourism, visual culture, and oral history, I ask how social media changed the ways individuals experience these sites, and how popular culture influenced the way people presented their photographs on Flickr and Instagram. In addition, I question the various challenges that memorials face in the twenty-first century, including fighting for the continued relevancy of the Holocaust, the difficulties of curatorship, and keeping people engaged in these histories beyond the confines of the memorial.
The theoretical and methodological frameworks that I use in my research are interdisciplinary. My work on collective memory is informed by the work of Maurice Halbwachs, Marianne Hirsch, Alison Landsberg, and James Young, and my studies on digital history and visual culture is grounded in the work of Lev Manovich, José van Dijck, Susan Sontag, and Barbie Zelizer. Dark tourism, an area of research based on the popularity of visiting sites of mass violence and genocide, helps to contextualize my studies on collective memory, digital history, and visual culture.
My work also uses oral history methodology in order to grasp a better understanding of visitor experiences at former Nazi concentration camp sites. I interviewed educators and tour guides working at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Neuengamme, and Sachsenhausen, and asked them about how they construct their tours, what sorts of questions participants ask, and what they generally take photos of. (Rarely, they explained, do they see people take selfies).