There is probably no way around that the future of Holocaust memory is going to be virtual. As explained here by Esther Zandberg, architecture critic at Ha’aretz, “The litany of new terms appearing in ads for virtual exhibitions at Holocaust museums are somewhat disconcerting: ‘experiential,’ ‘technological innovation,’ ‘virtual reality,’ ‘augmented reality,’ ‘an exhibition that changes the rules of the game,’ ‘a revolution in Holocaust commemoration.’”
Assuming that technological systems determine the form of culture, and that our own contemporary culture is technological, the only question is how to do make the Holocaust virtual,” with what skill, with what kind of “realism,” and with what kind of ethical circumspection. These are critical matters of taste and tact. My own interest in this relates to the “sense” conveyed in these kinds of display formats.
The philosophical point that should catch the eye relates to “semblance” and simulation. As explored already by Susanne Langer in Feeling and Form (1953), especially in relation to modern art, the semblance of sight, sound, feeling, smell, taste, event that is carried in viritual systems falls under an overarching semblance of “life.” Zandberg captures some of this in her article. “The transition to advanced media that breathe ‘life’ into the displays is particularly necessary now, Ulaby writes, ‘at a time when hate crimes have risen sharply and members of Congress have trivialized survivors’ experiences. Holocaust museum directors say [survivors’] stories are more important than ever.’”