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Friday, June 9 • 10:30am - 10:50am
Augmented Reality for Community Memory in the Face of Repression

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This talk presents the process and learning outcomes of creating interactive and digital experiences for remembering racialized victims of state violence in Nicaragua during heavy state repression. I created AMA y No Olvida, Memory Museum against Impunity, a transmedia community based project in collaboration with the families of victims of state violence, organized in the Association Mothers of April (AMA), an organization I am a member of. We gathered to protect, mobilize and share the stories of the victims in order to dispute the official narrative that criminalizes citizens who participated in civic protests and the climate of impunity fostered by the Nicaraguan government. Building on participatory (Huybrechts et al. 2014; Costanza-Chock 2014), decolonial and feminist research methodologies (Tunstall 2023; Ruiz Trejo 2020; Berry et al. 2017) I engaged in practice-based research to create this community based transmedia project and other experimental forms of human rights’ pedagogy and activism.

The Interactive Art book AMA Constructing Memory was designed with the aim to utilize Augmented Reality (AR) to transgress the state of exception, to intervene public and online spaces, and for the stories of the victims to travel outside their homes and reach wider audiences outside Nicaraguan borders. The audience is able interact with 3D photogrammetry replicas of the barricade altars created by the victims’ relatives to memorialize our loved ones in their own spaces using Augmented Reality filters and image trackers. With these new audiences we had to address viewers’ privilege and distance, and consider issues of user’s embodiment, access and place.

In the talk I discuss the possibility of AR to engage in memory work through theories of annotation posed by Victoria Szabo (2018) and include another analytical possibility for AR to perform rituals of collective grieving. The AR experience design proposes the creation of a space (i.e. ritual), that contextualizes the experience and refuses (Tuck and Yang 2014) its use without the context of the victims lives and the organizing of their families. I also draw examples of uses of digital media for remembrance from other artists and collectives such as Breonna’s Garden, VR Día de los Muertos and Digital Gardens and highlight how these mediated rituals and digital artifacts are culturally specific and have to be handled with care and respect.

Berry, Maya J., Claudia Chávez Argüelles, Shanya Cordis, Sarah Ihmoud, and Elizabeth Velásquez Estrada. 2017. “Toward a Fugitive Anthropology: Gender, Race, and Violence in the Field.” Cultural Anthropology 32: 537–65. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca32.4.05.
Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2014. Out of the Shadows, into the Streets!: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Huybrechts, Liesbeth, Cristiano Storni, Yanki Lee, Selina Schepers, Jessica Schoffelen, and Katrien Dreessen. 2014. Participation Is Risky. Approaches to Joint Creative Processes. Vol. 13. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Valiz.
Ruiz Trejo, Marisa G. 2020. DESCOLONIZAR Y DESPATRIARCALIZAR Las Ciencias Sociales, La Memoria y La Vida En Chiapas, Centroamérica y El Caribe. Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas.
Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. 2014. “Unbecoming Claims: Pedagogies of Refusal in Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 20: 811–18.
Tunstall, Elizabeth Dori. Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook. MIT Press, 2023.


Emilia Yang

Assistant Professor of Art and Design, University of Michigan

Friday June 9, 2023 10:30am - 10:50am EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)