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Queen Mary academic’s new book explores the entanglement of technology and trauma

Humanity’s reliance on technologies that narrate and circulate trauma as a cultural form is the focus of the latest work from Dr Yasmin Ibrahim, Professor of Digital Economy and Culture at Queen Mary University of London.

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In this crucial new text, ‘Technologies of Trauma: Cultural Formations Over Time’, Dr Ibrahim deconstructs the idea of trauma as a part of our popular culture shaped by technologies through time.

Dr Ibrahim, who is Head of the Department of Marketing in Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management, explains: “Media technologies do not simply record or represent trauma, but transform trauma into a cultural form, that is commodified in different contexts. By recording, archiving and re-playing trauma, technologies can re-distribute it to new audiences, making it available ‘on-demand’ in the digital economy.”

Tech shapes culture over time

Dr Ibrahim’s tenth book uses the term ‘technologies of trauma’ to refer to the ways that technologies transmute trauma, both through their technical capacity and within their wider social and political processes, ultimately binding these to our everyday lives and constructing our social realities.

The book explores how the digital age creates uncertainty, when the subjects of tragedy and trauma are resurrected and performed through user-generated content, so that images and narratives are recombined by the disruptive creativity of their audience.

The afterlife of trauma

In the new publication, Dr Ibrahim argues that the interface of technologies with trauma produces an ‘afterlife’ - reworking, re-making and enlarging trauma in a public sphere through the technologies used for storytelling.

As a real-world illustration of these ideas, Dr Ibrahim suggests we look across London to the 2017 Grenfell fire: “Through the formal enquiry into the disaster, the Grenfell victims’ trauma is revived, replayed and contained within an archive in which victimhood is captured in a number of stages. The testimonials from Grenfell are elongated through the public review - but also in the traces of victims’ narratives left on social media in real time, through flesh witnessing, and as an online repository of death narratives.

“The burnt-out Grenfell tower is a symbol of trauma and sacrificed lives. The brutalist block becomes a technology of trauma through its depictions in the media, revealing its condemned predicament between slippages in bureaucracy and governance. The charred remains of the tower yield readings into the politics of social housing, gentrification and displacement.”

Dr Ibrahim’s book ‘Technologies of Trauma: Cultural Formations Over Time’ is published by Emerald Publishing Limited and available to buy from Amazon, Blackwells, WHSmith, and Waterstones.

Dr Ibrahim is the head of the Marketing Department in Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate modules at on new media technologies in business and brand management.

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