A wailing wall in cyberspace: Loneliness, censorship, and collective memory – in memory of Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistle blower
Keywords:collective memory, modern loneliness, censorship, online mourning
As the whistle blower of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, Dr. Li Wenliang was dismissed as the spreader of rumors and punished by the authorities. His later death from the coronavirus outraged the netizens in China on various social platforms. His post on Weibo, written by Dr. Li on the day he was finally diagnosed as infected, has thus become a wailing wall in cyberspace. It has invited millions of Weibo comments below, both from those who lost their loved ones in the outbreak and netizens in general. The post functions as a monument in cyberspace for people to commemorate the bereft in the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the first place where Covid-19 was reported. Considering the transmediality of cyberspace of our modern times, the phenomenon of online mourning urges a semiotic explanation, especially when it concerns a figure who only became famous after his death. The study aims to conceptualize the dynamics of collective memory with the monument in cyberspace following the insights of Eco’s concept of “the open text”. The wailing wall in cyberspace functions as a mnemonic text for members of society, which interacts with the collective memory restored in the social sphere. Moreover, censorship also played an important role in the formation of the wailing wall. All these features are brought together to make the wailing wall in the cyberspace a unique spectacle in online culture, which paves the way for further discussions in the future.
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