The MEmorial does not oppose or abandon the clarity of the idea, but it 'blocks' (overprints) on it the obscurity of the scene (event)” (p. 248).
Ulmer’s hypothetical or conceptual consulting agency, the EmerAgency, purportedly contains several methods of consulting, but Electronic Monuments is devoted to the method of the MEmorial. The MEmorial is a product. It is a thing that an individual can and should produce. These products have been tested in Ulmer’s undergraduate and graduate seminars in which the entire class was dedicated to building and evaluating Memorials. In other words, they are more than a concept. But the concept, or the process, is also what makes up a memorial. As the items in this collection will indicate, a MEmorial begins in the body. It begins when an individual engages the Internet not as a place for mere entertainment (although the MEmorial process has its roots in entertainment practices), but as virtual civic sphere. The MEmorial (collection) and “its institutionalization in EmerAgency as a new kind of consultancy are a response to concerns” formulated around the issue of digital communication (p. xvii).
Arguably, although Ulmer probably did not have this in mind, this collection is a direct response to Cynthia L. Selfe’s call in "Technology and Literacy: Perils of Not Paying Attention," to pay attention to what technology is doing to literacy. Selfe is more than weary of an institution that either ignores technology’s impact on our understanding or simply uses it as neat tool to continue the work of literate reasoning (p. 413). She “believes composition studies faculty have a much larger and more complicated obligation to fulfill—that of trying to understand and make sense of, to pay attention to how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education” (p. 413). The MEmorial, we imagine Ulmer would claim, is the product of paying close attention to digital technology and its profound influence on literacy.
Can we even have a culture?
So how does a MEmorial work, you might ask? This will become evident as you explore the collection, but the first thing to know is that a MEmorial doesn’t work. It is performed. In short, the MEmorial is a (digital) monument that has gone ‘live.’ It is a website or other digitally accessed place that attaches itself to the periphery of a sanctioned monument. “The MEmorial is initiated in a[n] . . . immediately practical way by means of peripheral monument. Peripheral monuments, like their computer counterparts, add functionality to an established memorial” (Ulmer p. 46). For example, a web-based MEmorial for the Lost Boys of Sudan has been set up on the periphery of the Roger Maris Museum in North Dakota. The idea is that the story of the Lost Boys juxtaposed against Maris’ life story will not so much critique the value-system inherent in commemorating a baseball star as it will expose the sacrifices inherent in the valued “against all odds” narrative.
But a MEmorial does not stop there. The process of MEmorializing should also lead to a self-knowledge. The creator (or egent) will come to recognize his or her own participation in the commemoration of a narrative. That narrative is the creator/egent.