The rise of mass shootings in the U.S. creates community trauma based upon experiences of survivors, their families, and the community’s understanding that something essential about our society’s humanity has changed. These events raise essential questions about what levels of threat inform our everyday lives, how we feel when we walk into public community spaces, and how we create humane systems of support. Including opportunities for survivors to express what they hope will emerge as a result of their anguish is one way to ensure that public representations of their experiences includes space for them to participate in the creation of these representations. In this sense, remembering is less an act of memorializing and more of an opportunity for processing and healing. Digital interfaces, when developed through ethical, respectful frameworks, can open up these opportunities for memorializing in inclusive, community-focused ways.
This project will develop and test digital tools for raising awareness about the impacts of gun violence on communities by designing a digital archive of photographs, sound testimonials, and written stories collected by photographer Ian Witlen as part of his exhibit, Anguish in the Aftermath. The exhibit serves as a processing and healing space for survivors of this tragedy, while also making broader arguments about the vast impact of gun violence on the world as a whole.
It’s clear that making this archive open-access may leave too much room for negative appropriation. Therefore, research is required to begin this project by creating a prototype and testing a closed archive that would be available online. We will build both a closed archive housed at UF and intended for people directly involved in the Stoneman Douglas tragedy, as well as a public-facing website intended for public audiences that will be geared toward raising awareness in Florida and beyond.