Humans have coped with tragedy using ritual and memorials since the Neolithic era. Doka called a memorial a space invested with meaning, “set aside...

Humans have coped with tragedy using ritual and memorials since the Neolithic era. Doka called a memorial a space invested with meaning, “set aside to commemorate an event such as a tragedy.” Memorialization is a ritual of bereavement, the creation of a place, permanent or not, that facilitates the persistence of memory. This space allows for the restructuring of the social network between the living, those who create the memorial, and the dead, those for which the memorial is created.

Memorialization happens in both the analog and digital contexts. In fact, some now decline to recognize a distinction between the on- and offline worlds. In his new book, Journalism and Memorialization in the Age of Social Media (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), Peter J. Gloviczki, an assistant professor at Coker College, conceptualizes online memorials as networked remembrance spaces. These social media posts and groups are “immediate, interactive and public and they function across a great distance.” Online memorials are both user-driven – the users drive the conversations and are responsible for keeping up the sites – and story-driven – the sites are places where users tell stories related to the subject(s) of the memorial.

Thorough, fact-based journalism plays an important role in the maintenance of online memorials. According to Gloviczki, news reports provide the foundation for the discussion of events, as well as being central to making sense of those events. So significant is journalism for online memorials that, in some cases, a memorial will cease once coverage of that event ends. But many online memorials continue long after media interests concludes. The persistence of these sites demonstrates how online memorials “disrupt the notion of a finite end.”