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Construct an abject electronic monument for understanding a personal/cultural loss.

Until recently, monuments tended to reflect only cultural and not personal losses and values, but recent monuments have included the personal.

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall site now includes a museum of artifacts left at the wall by visitors. Some of these artifacts, such as flags, have rather obvious cultural meanings, but others are obscure to all but the people who left them. The inclusion of the personal in the monument opens any number of possible relations to values and losses. One can be either in favor of or opposed to the Vietnam War and still participate in the ritual of visiting the wall and remembering the sacrifices.

The Names Project, or AIDS QUILT, is composed entirely of personal contributions, yet the overall formof the monument makes sense to any who see it -- a quilt signifies the caring we bestow on the sick, and it also represents the "piecing together" of various parts into a whole, or metaphorically, the coming together of individuals to form a community.

In Michel Leiris' theory of the sacred, a "personal sacred" shares with the "official sacred" a tranformative capacity. Whereas the official sacred transforms the community, the personal sacred transforms the person. When someone participates in the Names Project monument by contributing a piece of the quilt, he or she transforms both the quilt (and therefore the culture which identifies itself in relation to the quilt) and himself or herself; by mourning, one adopts a set of ego-ideals. The one mourned becomes part of the mourner.

Ideally, student monuments should allow for a wide variety of personal relationships to the monument. One solution is to construct a monument out of personal contributions, like the Names Project does. The trick is to avoid highly controversial approaches. For example, if a student made a monument to aborted fetuses in order to honor "pro-life" values, then "pro-choice" people would feel totally alienated. But, if the monument was dedicated to unwanted pregnancies, then people with either pro-choice and pro-life views could participate.