Guest Blog from Katy at Wiener Library

wldebateTo mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2013, the Wiener Library’s Young Volunteers hosted a special debate about social media. Ten young people aged 16-25 came together to discuss the question ‘How useful is social media for raising awareness about the Holocaust and genocide?’. Chaired by the Library’s Community and Outreach Officer, the following questions formed the outline of the debate:

1)    If it’s ‘social’ media, is it suitable for raising awareness of a sensitive topic such as the Holocaust?

2)    Are there differences between the ways social media can be used to raise awareness about the past as opposed to the present?

3)    Memorialisation, learning and taking action? Can social media do anything more than awareness raising?

4)    Where should social media be placed amongst traditional methods of raising awareness of the Holocaust (eg school teaching, museums, films, literature)

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Credit: Ben Turner and The Wiener Library

5)    Are certain types of social media better than others for raising awareness of the Holocaust and genocide?

6)    If we can’t control what gets written on Twitter, is it actually useful at all?

7)    Where do you see the role of social media in the future in terms of raising awareness of the Holocaust?

Some of the key points from the debate were published on the Wiener Library twitter account so the wider public were able to engage with the debate. The responses can still be seen (and replied to!) by searching the hashtag #WLdebate.

Credit: Ben Turner and The Wiener Library

Credit: Ben Turner and The Wiener Library

Lots of interesting points were made but the overall consensus was that social media was a useful ‘way in’ for people in terms of raising awareness. They argued that it had the potential to capture people’s attention and inspire them to learn more as well as take action. One attendee was less positive and worried that social media was a ‘shallow form of engagement’, but that didn’t mean it was not useful, just that it was useful for catching attention rather than deep and meaningful learning. Someone following the discussion on Twitter argued that writing a survivor story in 140 characters (regarding the Holocaust Education Trust’s ‘ask a survivor’ Twitter chat for Holocaust Memorial Day) would lose the historical context, but the group argued that the fact people were asking survivors questions at all via twitter showed some level of positive engagement.

After the debate finished, it was suggested by the attendees that a new online presence was created for them to carry on their discussions. The Library consequently created a debate group on Facebook for those young people and others to discuss ideas and put forward potential future debate topics. We will be holding another debate in the autumn so keep following the #WLdebate!