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VWI invites/goes to...
Noah Shenker: Beyond the Era of the Witness: The Digital Afterlife of Holocaust Testimony

Thursday, 19. May 2022, 12:00 - 14:00

Online via Zoom: (Link below)


VWI goes to the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, Interaktionen

Shenker 1Although still grappling with the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, we are also facing a momentous transition. The “era of the witness” marked by a consolidation of survivor memory through film, testimonies, and other media, is giving way to a period when witnesses will no longer be present to anchor representations with their living, moral authority. In the face of the looming aftermath of living witnesses, institutions are grappling with ways to preserve the memories and testimony of Holocaust survivors. The USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony Project (DiT) addresses this loss to the world’s collective memory and the need for teaching to the next generation through living interaction with survivors in museum and classroom settings. The Shoah Foundation is now using motion-capture technology, intensive interviewing, and database-structured artificial intelligence to create a collection of on-demand virtual, interactive witnesses.

This talk draws from Leopard and Shenker’s current book project entitled Beyond the Era of the Witness, a book, which offers scholars, archivists, curators, and others, a framework for interpreting and working with the DiT and other digital representations of the Holocaust. It demonstrates how initiatives like the DiT draw upon a long genealogy of automata and virtual humans: clockwork men, toys, and robots, as well as AI-driven programs, including virtual psychotherapy interfaces and military simulations. Seen within this historical lineage, the DiT avatars are not only testifying witnesses, but virtual, pedagogical agents that are part of a larger history of interactive learning that often interacts with and is at times subsumed by spectacle. Rather than carrying the burden of testimonial integrity and authenticity — expectations that they cannot fulfil — virtual witnesses should be assessed on their pedagogical and communicative possibilities. Beyond the Era of the Witness blends essayistic prose scholarship (for instance, Adorno, Barthes, Baudrillard, and Kristeva) with visual essays (fashioned on comics and polemical graphic art – for instance, Spiegelman, Gonick, Satrapi, and Rius) to show how digital media are being used to reshape the agency and subjectivity of witnesses as institutions are increasingly turning to projects like the DiT to preserve the living traces of survivor memory.

Noah Shenker is currently a Senior Fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies and the 6a Foundation and N. Milgrom Senior Lecturer in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of the book Reframing Holocaust Testimony (2015) and of several articles and chapters on topics addressing representations of the Holocaust and other genocides through film, testimony, and new media. He is currently working on Beyond the Era of the Witness: The Digital Afterlife of Holocaust Testimony, a co-authored book with Dan Leopard.

Online via Zoom:
Meeting-ID: 670 0902 0944, Kenncode: 765703

Image: Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Picture: Noah Shenker

Click here to download the invitation as a PDF file.

In cooperation with:
IfZG Interaktionen

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