From Yearbooks to Facebook: Public Memory in Transition

By Brian F. Clark.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The high school or college yearbook functioned as a form of public memory, a yearly memorial in print by which institutions constructed an approved visual and print master narrative of an institution and its members. Yearbook recipients traditionally created elaborate marginalia, a ritualized act of transgression (writing in a book) that transformed an institutional artifact into a more personalized one and created carnivalesque private counter narratives (pace Bakhtin) to an institution’s master one. The traditional yearbook is now nearly extinct—and nothing has quite replaced it as a site of institutional memory. Today, people memorialize themselves on the web using personal web pages, blogs, and social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo to name but a few. Whereas traditional yearbooks memorialized the many (the institution), social networking sites celebrate the personal and attempt to create ad hoc group identities, i.e. “groups.” Paradoxically, Facebook has institutionalized the carnivalesque, draining it of much of its transgressive power. This presentation will examine the ways in which the distinction between public memory and private memory, between, for instance, diaries and yearbooks, has been blurred to the point of erasure. Diaries in the form of blogs or social networking sites have become as public as yearbooks—and as institutionalized. What has been lost in this shift? What gained? And who, or what, benefits?

Keywords: Yearbooks, Facebook, Social Networking, Public Memory, Public Diaries

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp.19-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 415.843KB).

Brian F. Clark

Instruction/Reference Librarian, Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA

Brian F. Clark has been an Instruction/Reference Librarian at Western Illinois University since 2003. Brian has made numerous presentations. His presentations include: “Game on (and on): Adapting and Extending the Open Source Information Literacy Game” at the LOEX National Conference in Chicago (2008) and “Launching Lifelong Learning: Literacy Instruction at Two Midwestern Universities” at the Educause Midwest Conference, also in Chicago (2008). He also has presented internationally at the 2nd International Conference on the Book in Beijing, China and at Tamkang University in Taipei, Taiwan. He has published a number of articles in various journals including: The International Journal of the Book, Against the Grain, Teacher Librarian, and College & Research Libraries News.


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