The Small Histories project: the internet, life stories and ‘performances of reconstruction’

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Schutt, Stefan (2011) The Small Histories project: the internet, life stories and ‘performances of reconstruction’. PhD thesis, RMIT University.


This project revolves around Small Histories, an online web-based software system for the uploading and sharing of life stories: I created Small Histories to explore the ways in which the internet can facilitate the urge to tell, share and compare one’s personal history and, by doing so, generate an online network of interlinked personal narratives connected to historical times, events and places. The project originated with a personal event: the tracing of my biological Israeli father in 1997 and my subsequent explorations of my Israeli and German family histories. The stories I encountered in these explorations differed, depending on who was telling them. The Small Histories system was a response to the potential of the burgeoning internet to represent such differing viewpoints, and to generate new forms of encounters with the past. Since then the system has developed in tandem with the internet, especially the explosive growth over recent years of what has been called social software. Conceptually, this project explores the fast-evolving social internet as a setting for auto/biographical narrative practice and how this overlaps with and changes accepted notions of performance, community formation, identity construction and acts of memory. As a framework for these investigations, I propose that the internet is a catalyst without precedent for the production of performances of reconstruction, where fragments of the past are dug up, collected, assembled and presented as an imaginative reconstruction of ‘what used to be’, in an attempt to re-establish a lost sense of roots, identity and belonging; a coherent narrative of identity in an era of fragmentation.

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Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Work-Based Education Research Centre (WERC)
Historical > SEO Classification > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Historical > FOR Classification > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media
Historical > RFCD Classification > 280000 Information, Computing and Communication Sciences
Keywords Internet, social media, social software, memory,cultural memory studies, postmemory
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