Chapter 18: Mobile Media After 9/11: The September 11 Memorial & Museum App

by Alberto S. Galindo


Chapter Abstract:

Tragedies like the 9/11 attacks are understood not only by witnessing the events, but also by the ways these events are told and retold. When considering how such national traumas like 9/11 are told—through oral histories, photographs, visualizations like timelines, to name a few—how might the mobile phone as a narrative interface transform our relationship to these stories and these memorializations? Using the “Explore 9/11” app from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as the main object of study, this chapter notes how the screen of the phone transforms our relationship to the screen as a story interface (since it is interacted with differently than television and film screens). The result is a narrative that exists across several spaces: the site-specific locations related to 9/11 experienced in tandem with images on the phone’s screen, the audio space of the oral narratives that are unlocked when walking by certain locations, and the space of the archive of eye-witness accounts of the events (accessed through the phone’s interface). An analysis of the app thus shows that acts of memorialization, especially when experienced through emerging storytelling interfaces like the mobile phone, must be read through the lens of narrative; narratives that simultaneously interrogate these traumas as intensely public and private, in the past and ever evolving.


Hands-On Exploration:

The issues and challenges faced for digital acts of memorialization span topics ranging from how to deal with the Facebook page of a friend who passed away to creating audio narratives about tragedies like 9/11. For this project, you will explore modes of memorialization using existing mobile apps. First, choose a person or event that you wish to memorialize. This could be someone you knew personally, a famous person, or an event ranging from things like the Civil War to major events that happened in your area. Next, decide how to best communicate your memorial and how the memorialization is related to the spaces you move through. How can you best link your memorial to a specific place (or places)? Using apps like 7scenes, noTours, Woices, VoiceThread, or Trip Journal, create a memorialization that other people can walk through and experience in a site-specific way. Once complete, create a short reflection paper about how your memorialization links to Alberto S. Galindo’s discussion of the 9/11 walking tour’s use of time, space, and storytelling.

Image of headphones at cemetery near the World Trade Center site by gane on Flickr (Creative Commons)