Editorial 4/2016 Manuel Menke & Christian Schwarzenegger

Media, Communication and Nostalgia
Finding a better tomorrow in the yesterday?


Today is grey skies, tomorrow is tears
you’ll have to wait till yesterday is here
Tom Waits

In 2016, it appears, the promise of a good future was increasingly sought for in the past and by invoking the spirit of a faded prior exceptionality. In the Brexit campaign or the US elections, to name but a few of the most prominent examples for similar developments around the globe, nostalgia fuelled populism and nationalist identity politics. “Take back control” and “Make America great again” were as much the essence of a nostalgic narrative of a better past as they were a false promise for a better future. The glorious times such politics refer to in their campaigns are hard to trace and likely never existed in the imagined form. But they are offered as a projection surface for people´s hopes, dreams, and fears, harvesting the sentiments and affections of disgruntled parts of the population to capitalise them for political success. In the now so anxiously termed “post-truth” era – in itself a reference to a favourable yet allegedly bygone version of reality – nostalgia is used for orchestrating affects at the cost of facts and rational discourse. The success of such political strategies in Western democracies stunned liberals across the globe and the debate about its appeal will have to continue due to the persistent distrust in democracy, media, and politics we are contemporarily witnessing in Europe and elsewhere. Weiterlesen

Ekaterina Kalinina: What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Media and Nostalgia?

Nostalgia is often understood as a syndrome and a therapeutic mechanism for healing traumatic past experiences, a retrospective utopia of safety and stability, or a revisionist project of rewriting history in a more user-friendly and appealing way. The literature also highlights different uses of nostalgic sentiments, such as their commercial and aesthetic applications, affective nature, material dimensions, and political relevance, among many others. Previous research has shown that media, popular culture and creative industries are the central platforms for nostalgic productions, which not only allow for creativity but also manipulate users’ attitudes towards the past and induce nostalgia in audiences. Such an abundance of perspectives and theories on nostalgia creates conceptual confusion. With this in mind, this essay aims at more clearly elucidating theories on nostalgia. As engagement with broader debates on the role of the media in nostalgic experiences has also been limited, this essay will provide some remarks on the relations between media and nostalgia.

Steffen Lepa & Vlasis Tritakis: Not Every Vinyl Retromaniac is a Nostalgic A social experiment on the pleasures of record listening in the digital age

Approaching current vinyl enthusiasm in late modernity, we postulate four mechanisms as possible explanations and test them by conducting a social experiment with 31 music listeners. Half of them were to play the vinyl version of a current music album; the rest were given the CD. Without participants’ knowledge, the headphone sound was manipulated, effectively resulting in a between-subjects design with ‘sound’ and ‘sensory appeal’ as independent variables and ‘emotional arousal’ and ‘nostalgia’ as dependents. Additionally, participants’ birth year was implemented as a covariate. Obtained results confirm the distinctive sound of the Vinyl as well as its sensory appeal to be both aesthetically more exciting for nowadays’ listeners compared to a CD. Furthermore, we demonstrate feelings of technostalgia to be ‘embodied’ since they only appear with ‘valid’ material media of one’s own past. In contrast, generational aura attributions emerge when handling ‘obsolete’ audio media one has not been socialized with.

Lynne Hibberd & Zoë Tew-Thompson: Hills, Old People, and Sheep Reflections of Holmfirth as the Summer Wine town

Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, UK is globally renowned as the setting for the world’s longest running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine (UK, BBC, 1973-2010). This article explores how the TV series has become embedded in the practical existence of the town and draws on empirical research with residents of Holmfirth which shows how people situate themselves in relation to their factual and fictionalized cultural heritage. In this paper we consider the interrelationship between media and memories and the role that nostalgia plays for the production, commodification, distribution and exchange of narratives.

Jakob Hörtnagl: “Why? Because It’s Classic!“ Negotiated knowledge and group identity in the retrogaming-community “Project 1999”

This paper explores the preservation of the social architecture as a constitutive element of the retrogaming-community Project 1999, a group of players who are enthusiastic about a specific classic phase of the old MMORPG Everquest. In an attempt to recreate an authentic gaming experience, certain technical and cultural characteristics of this era are invoked as a symbolic resource in a retrospective discourse. The players negotiate nostalgic sentiments in the contradictory conditions of the contemporary converging media environment to recreate what they consider the “essence” of Everquest. The paper follows this issue by investigating the ways in which knowledge is collected and applied. Using a dedicated wiki, information about the original game is collected and made visible within the community in a collaborative effort. This provides opportunities to reflect and discuss shared memories and recreate authenticity not only on the technical, but also on the cultural level. The stated ideal, although impossible to achieve, serves as an important point of reference in ongoing negotiations on the condition of the game. A collective memory grounded in nostalgic longing directed at the past thus becomes a source for shared identity and communitization in the present.

Ezequiel Korin: Nowstalgia Articulating future pasts through selfies and GoPro-ing

This article discusses the emergence and prevalence of a prospective nostalgic narrative of present events articulated through the practices of selfies and GoPro-ing as instances of anticipatory future yearning, colloquially identified as nowstalgia. The compound term collapses past, present, and future into a deeply complex temporal construct, as the object of such a yearning is but a possibility that is waiting to happen or, at best, one that is taking place in the present.
Using a critical cultural approach, the article proposes nowstalgia as an analytical tool for the exploration of selfies and GoPro-ing as moments of active construction of a presumably valorized past-in-the-making. The conditions of production of nowstalgic narratives hinge, the author argues, on the abstraction or removal of the subject from the present actions and situations in which they are immersed, in favor of documenting them, which becomes justified by their possible yearning in the future.

Mario Keller: Experienced Mood and Commodified Mode Forms of nostalgia in the television commercials of Manner

The article raises the question how nostalgia is utilized as an advertising strategy in the television commercials of the Austrian sweets producer Manner. The first section of the paper elaborates how different variations of this emotion developed and how the meaning of it changed throughout history. Among others nostalgia became an important aspect of consumer culture and was therefore increasingly popular as a tool for advertising and marketing. In the second part of the paper, by analysing and comparing a Manner commercial from 1998 to two from 2015, it is shown in what different ways nostalgia can be visualized and communicated in television advertising. Whereas the 1998 campaign tried to evoke a “real” nostalgic mood in viewers by referring to national collective as well as to individual consumers’ nostalgia, the 2015 commercials playfully engaged with various superficial nostalgic references and omitted negative facets of nostalgia.

Talitha Ferraz: Activating Nostalgia Cinemagoers’ performances in Brazilian movie theatres reopening and protection cases

Based on two recent Brazilian efforts to protect historical street-level cinemas in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, I aim to analyse the role of audience’s activism in promoting engagements for the reopening and maintenance of picture houses, taking into account the handling of cinema-going memories by certain practices, actions, and discourses that I denominate as “activated nostalgia”. I discuss the campaign against the closure of the Grupo Estação cinema circuit, located in Rio de Janeiro, and the recovering process of the Cine Belas Artes, an art and essay cinema situated in São Paulo. These movements operate their network across online social media and public events, hence accomplishing significant gains in terms of the maintenance of the places. I investigate the limits and intersections between enthusiastic collective performances and the uses of the cinema-goers’ nostalgia expressions by institutional actors and managers involved in the final steps of the restoration projects. I suggest that the activation of nostalgia through cinema-goers mobilizations becomes a crucial axis for the formation of belonging and identity ties among cinephiles. Adding to that, it functions as a component of the uses of memory regarding street-level cinemas and its criteria for preservation, reopening or patrimonialization, often meeting the interests of forces of power engendered within governmental and private spheres.

Gabriele de Seta & Francesca Olivotti: Postcolonial Posts on Colonial Pasts Constructing Hong Kong nostalgia on social media

Hong Kong nostalgia has become a trademark aesthetic in representations of the city from literature and cinema to branding and advertising. This article traces the social construction of Hong Kong nostalgia back to digital media platforms and the everyday activities of users sharing and commenting historical images and textual memories related to the city’s colonial past. In dialogue with recent scholarship on time, media and memory, the authors identify a large Facebook group dedicated to the city’s colonial times and follow the activities of its members through qualitative methodologies guided by a network sensibility. By engaging with the circulation of historical photographs, personal narratives and material culture; and by examining the media practices involved in sharing and reconstructing local memories, the authors provide an ethnographically grounded portrayal of how everyday social media interactions contribute to a larger process of nostalgizing the city.

Marek Jeziński & Łukasz Wojtkowski: Nostalgia Commodified Towards the marketization of the post-communist past through the new media

In this paper post-communist nostalgia in contemporary Poland as a specific form of cultural practice is examined. The phenomenon is characterized by the references to space, time, people and human activities evoking nostalgic feelings and emotions rooted in past of a particular human group and it is defined through the media practices as a certain kind of product functioning in and by the media.
The post-communist nostalgia is presented as a kind of folklore that functions mainly in the new media as a sphere of cultural commodity of emotions and is manifested by the internet blogs, shops (one can obtain the communist era products), ‘memory’ sites profiled to bring the recollections from the communist past (virtual museums, fora discussing TV shows, TV series, toys, books, products, etc. coming from the 1970. decade), websites chatting about people (politicians, artists, sportsmen), places or events coming from the socialist era.