Augmented Nationalism:

Mobile Apps and National Narratives at Material Sites of Memory in Canada’s Capital Region

Amanda Montague
University of Ottawa

1 Today the ubiquity of mobile technologies in the form of smartphones and tablets is changing the way in which information is acquired and disseminated on a daily basis. In the last decade, these devices have gained traction as platforms for generating site-specific memory narratives, creating new ways of engaging with cultural memory and spatial history through augmented reality applications. These geolocative mobile apps have prompted fundamental questions about the ways in which narratives are accessed and experienced in an increasingly digital world. For instance, what role do locative narratives play in the everyday experience of place and in the process of making places meaningful? My interest lies in examining how these forms of storytelling impact discourses of cultural memory in Canada. Mobile locative narratives used at sites of memory intervene in the relationship between an individual and traditional memory objects (including monuments, historic landmarks, and archival materials) in ways that challenge the concept of the “memory freeze,” where material objects are considered static symbols of the past. These mobile narratives insist on the dynamics of memory objects, as well as the dynamics of sites of memory, by calling attention to the fluid relationship between time, affect, and place that contribute to an individual’s sense of place and sense of the past. By focusing on two examples of mobile apps designed for Canada’s National Capital Region, this paper will explore how mobile technologies continue to shape and reshape conceptualizations of Canadian cultural history and impact users’ relationships to that history and to the physical environment.

A Sense of Place: Theoretical Framework

2 To begin this exploration of mobile technologies and their impact on Canadian cultural memory discourses, it is necessary to situate the discussion within the theoretical framework of place and placelessness, particularly because developments in technology have long been linked to these terms. Placelessness has often been cited as a condition of modernity. In his 1976 study, entitled Place and Placelessness,humanist geographer Edward Relph was quick to suggest that modern technologies of transportation and communication, as well as modern architecture, were responsible for creating conditions of placelessness. He noted, “Roads, railways, airports, cutting across or imposed on the landscape rather than developing with it, are not only features of placelessness in their own right, but by making possible the mass movement of people with all their fashions and habits, have encouraged the spread of placelessness well beyond their immediate impacts” (90). For Relph, the increased mobility afforded by technological advancements detracts from authentic experiences of place in much the same way that new communication technologies have “reduced the need for face-to-face contact . . . and reduced the significance of place-based communities” (92). Similar concerns are addressed by Martin Heidegger in “The Thing,” a lecture originally delivered shortly after the end of World War II. Here he observes,

All distances in time and space are shrinking. Man now reaches overnight, by plane, places which formerly took weeks and months of travel. He now receives instant information, by radio, of events which he formerly learned about only years later, if at all. . . . Distant sites of the most ancient cultures are shown on film as if they stood this very moment amidst today’s street traffic. Moreover, the film attests to what it shows by presenting also the camera and its operators at work. The peak of this abolition of every possibility of remoteness is reached by television, which will soon pervade and dominate the whole machinery of communication. . . . Yet the frantic abolition of all distances brings no nearness; for nearness does not consist in shortness of distance. What is least remote from us in point of distance, by virtue of its picture on film or its sound on the radio, can remain far from us. What is incalculably far from us in point of distance can be near to us. Short distance is not in itself nearness. Nor is great distance remoteness. (163)

Heidegger’s critique of the compression of space and time caused by developments in technology shares similarities with Benedict Anderson’s later discussion of temporality in Imagined Communities (1983). Anderson saw new technologies such as the printing press, and by extension the novel and the newspaper, as examples of a new perception of temporality that contributed to the concept of the nation. For Anderson, the formal composition of the newspaper is indicative of homogenous, empty time, as the newspaper consists of stories and events from places all over the world, juxtaposed with each other, and linked only by a shared calendrical date, as “most of them happen independently, without the actors being aware of each other” (33).

3 Similar to Heidegger’s argument that what is close is actually far away, and what is far can seem close, a newspaper close at hand connects individuals to events at a geographic distance, under the perception of temporal simultaneity, even though they may never visit these places or meet these people. However, where Heidegger felt that a mediated experience of geographic or temporal distance failed to produce a sense of nearness, Anderson believed that this temporal compression, and the cultural products that reinforced it, created an imagined sense of community and connection among individuals. On the ritual of reading the morning paper, he writes, “Each communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose identity he has not the slightest notion” (35). For Anderson, experiences such as these reinforce a sense of national community and belonging.

4 Although Anderson can be criticized for failing to account for the exclusionary aspects of nationalism and discourses of belonging, his critique of the impact of new technologies on configurations of space, time, and a sense of place, or community, echoes Marshall McLuhan’s theorizations of new media. Similar to Heidegger’s critique of television, McLuhan posited that television not only “knit a global village of tele-present images by broadcasting live across its early networks,” but also “produced a simultaneous doubling of place” (Varnelis and Friedberg 21). Contemporary developments in technologies such as mobile media contribute even more to a sense of simultaneity or a compression of distance. As Varnelis and Friedberg note, “Today it is progressively more common to navigate two places simultaneously, to see digital devices and telephones as an extension of our mobile selves” (25). Moreover, the ubiquity of mobile technologies such as the smartphone allows them to become visual and cultural markers of our constant connectivity and simultaneity, similar to how Anderson saw the newspaper reader on the subway. For Anderson, an individual reading the newspaper on the subway “observ[es] exact replicas of his own paper being consumed” by others and is thus “continually reassured that the imagined world is visibly rooted in everyday life” (35-36). Likewise, the increasing number of people engaged with mobile devices in public spaces serves to visually reinforce “the pervasiveness of the network,” where “technological networks become more accessible . . . and more mobile” and begin to transform public spaces (Varnelis and Friedberg 15).

5 The navigation of two places simultaneously through a digital device represents a shift away from linear cognition, which McLuhan predicted would be challenged by the proliferation of digital media. Mobile devices require the user to multi-task by navigating two “places” at once, her external physical environment and the digital environment of the phone screen. This movement away from linear cognition to simultaneity and multi-tasking, enhanced by networked media, not only changes how we think about community and borders, as in McLuhan’s concept of the global village, but also challenges linear understandings of time and history.

6 In this vein, the previous quotation from Heidegger is also noteworthy for the way in which he positions contemporary encounters with the past, or cultural heritage, through newly developed media. He positions the “nearness” produced by technology as fundamentally illusive, and in his suggestion that mediated experiences of the past strip them of their remoteness, he implies that the past remaining the past is the thing to be desired. This formulation creates a problematic idea of a golden, authentic, and ultimately privileged past whose existence is threatened by a contemporary desire to eradicate distance. Moreover, it is incompatible with how theories of cultural memory are formulated today; privileging an “authentic” past that is temporally distant neglects to account for the ways in which the past shapes and is shaped by the present.

7 The interconnectedness of the present and the past is evident in the increasing number of heritage projects or organizations that are using locative media today to facilitate public engagement with the past. With locative media applications, the history of a place is re-encoded through various media, including photographs, videos, text, and sound-scapes that serve to layer archival representations of the past of a place onto its present environment through the virtual window of a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. In technical terms, as Varnelis and Friedberg have explained, in locative media, location-aware devices “interface with the geospatial Web to provide georeferenced information on the spot to end users,” which ultimately “make[s] it possible for digital media to be associated with a site, or literally found there” (33). The uncovering or discovering of the past, facilitated by GIS technology, not only informs the user about a place’s history, but incorporates that history into an act of contemporary discovery, where the mobile device becomes a portal to the past. Moreover, the merging of the past with the present through mobile media challenges the assumption that one’s connection to a technological device always means disconnection from one’s surroundings. Communications scholar Joshua Meyrowitz has argued that these devices, particularly the mobile phone, pull us out of our physical surroundings, so that place becomes the “backdrop for [our mobile interactions] rather than our full life space” (26-27). However, the trend towards employing new locative technologies at heritage sites suggests that mobile technologies can, in fact, get us back into place by fostering strong experiential connections to a place’s past.

Places and Their Pasts

8 In order to understand these experiential connections more fully, I now turn to an analysis of several mobile locative narratives created for various historic sites in Canada’s capital, specifically in and around the Parliamentary Precinct. When used at historic sites, locative media narratives not only provide a user with more information about that particular site, but also create a temporal blurring that emphasizes the past as something that continues to encode and shape one’s experience of the present. Rita Raley refers to this as temporal layering, where mobile narratives suggest that “the past and the present do not necessarily maintain distinct — or easily distinguishable — ontologies and spatialities” (312). Contrary, then, to what Heidegger seems to suggest, a mediated experience of the past, certainly in the case of mobile locative projects, not only gives us an idea of who has walked a path before, but also how these traces might inform how we frame the present.

9 Evidence of this can be seen in Forgotten Worker Quest, one of two mobile apps associated with Heritage Passages, a Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC) online exhibit devoted to the early Ottawa settlement of Bytown and the building of the Rideau Canal and the Bytown Locks. The project, developed by Carleton University in association with Archives and Research Canada and the Bytown Museum, presents three iterations of a set of archival materials pertaining to the area of the Canal Locks, adjacent to Parliament Hill, and Major’s Hill Park. The two mobile apps, Forgotten Worker Quest and Virtual Museum, mark the VMC’s “first foray into supported mobile content” in conjunction with one of its web exhibits (Greenspan and Whitson 4). While the Virtual Museum app turns the area surrounding the locks into an outdoor museum by providing access to archival content in-place, or on-site, Forgotten Worker Quest invites users to take part in a choose-your-own-adventure game that turns the National Historic Site into a stage upon which the user is free to roam until she is prompted by the app to engage with part of the area’s history. In Forgotten Worker Quest, the user is “cast in the role of a newly disembarked Irish labourer” and invited to explore the area by performing a series of set missions that gradually reveal the history of Bytown and provide insight into the social and political climate surrounding the construction of the Rideau Canal (Greenspan and Whitson 3).

10 The mobile narrative both responds to the user’s movements throughout the space and prompts her to move in certain ways by pushing information to her at various locations. As she performs through the narrative, aspects of the canal’s history are uncovered that highlight the social and political climate at the time of the canal’s construction. By employing the mobile narrative at the site, the user’s body is foregrounded, both as the source of narrative progression and as embodying the experience of the Irish labourer, where his experiences of various hardships associated with the site, including disease and death, are projected onto the body of the user. In this way, the user’s engagement with the locative narrative becomes a form of site-specific performance. As performance scholar Gay McAuley has noted, “Site-specific performance, especially when it engages deeply with its chosen site, brings ideas of place, history, and memory to the fore, and it has the potential to disrupt, disturb and even to change the way we see the familiar” (603). Particularly in locative narratives that perform an act of historical recovery, such as Forgotten Worker Quest, the site both inspires the narrative and can be transformed by it, where the recollection of bodies that once inhabited the space can transform the user and this, in turn, can transform the user’s individual attachment to a place.

11 This process of reanimating the past through one’s movement around the Canal Locks contributes to an evocative and immersive experience of both the history of the site and its present state as a popular public area for both tourists and locals. This is a result of the temporal layering that the mobile app facilitates. When engaged in the locative narrative, the user must still perform through the surrounding public space and must therefore improvise through the unpredictable external environment. For as much as the app creates a compelling narrative that brings the user into deeper contact with the history of the site, she is never fully immersed to the point that she can neglect the reality of her surroundings. It is through toggling her attention between the real world and the visual world of the mobile narrative that the user critically confronts her relationship to a linear sense of time and history. In a mobile locative narrative, this relationship to the past encompasses both proximity and distance that continually play off of and shape each other. In this way, mobile locative narratives that engage with the presence of the past in-place are not, as Raley notes, traditional processes of “strict historical recovery and preservation [of artifacts],” but instead facilitate the imagining of “a past that does not stay past . . . but now intrudes upon the present” (312). Although Forgotten Worker Quest does integrate archival images and artifacts into its narrative, these objects have a secondary role, acting as props that support the exploratory narrative rather than constituting its focus.

12 Therefore if, as Raley suggests, mobile narratives do not focus on the recovery of archival objects but on framing the past in the context of the present, how then do mobile locative projects impact one’s experience of material memory objects at sites of memory? Is it that the mobile device acts as a surrogate for the archival object? And, in instances where traditional memory objects, such as monuments, are incorporated into the locative media project, how does virtual space amplify or obscure one’s experience of the material object?

Monuments and Materiality

13 The kind of memory work that monuments are capable of generating has been greatly contested, particularly because the relationship between monuments and publics comprises complex interactions between place, materiality, and affect. In their study “‘That Big Statue of Whoever’: Material Commemoration and Narrative in the Niagara Region” (2010), Russell Johnston and Michael Ripmeester surveyed locals from the Niagara region in southern Ontario to determine the rate at which the general public internalizes national memory narratives reified through statues and historic sites. As implied in their title, Johnston and Ripmeester determined that “material commemorations do not figure largely in local place making for local residents” (148). They concluded that physical monuments alone do not contribute to the perpetuation of local or national history, but that, for the most part, only “highly intertextual” narratives are recalled — that is, narratives reinforced through mass media (150). Even when information about a monument or site was made available through a plaque, “some participants suggested that historic sites and monuments best served as prompts to acquire more knowledge elsewhere” (151).

14 Two participant responses particularly stood out for Johnston and Ripmeester. One participant revealed, “I’m drawn into monuments, but I’m more driven to go to the library,” while another concluded, “We get general impressions from monuments, not detailed knowledge. It is important to get a sense of where things happened, otherwise they remain abstract” (151). Implicit in both of these responses is the affirmation that monuments function on two distinct levels: the affective or embodied and the intellectual or informational. Both participants emphasized the embodied and experiential aspects of an encounter with a monument in their claims that something draws the body to a monument and that the monument, in turn, leaves an impression. The haptic and cognitive connotations of the word “impression” suggest something phenomenological or affective as well as spectral in the encounter. However, both participants contrasted these affective experiences with intellectual or information-based experiences, suggesting perhaps that the two are not experienced as interconnected. If the phenomenological encounter with the physical object of the monument creates a spatial knowledge or awareness, as one participant implied, then that spatial knowledge, which started out as affective or experiential, leads to a more concretized historic knowledge.

15 Locative media increase some of the tensions that I have raised here between the affective, intellectual, and spatial aspects of one’s encounter with a monument. In one sense, locative media also affirm the significance of attaching a historical narrative to a place or physical location — of being in place, to get a sense of “where” things happened. As Jason Farman contends, “forms of site-specific storytelling aim to capitalize on the idea that there is value in standing at the site where an event took place; far more than simply reading about an event, being in the place where that event happened offers experiential value that gives us a deep sense of the story and the ways that story affects the meaning of the place” (7). In terms of historic knowledge, the monument’s commemorative intentions and significance is made clearer when additional or intertextual information typically “found elsewhere,” as Johnston and Ripmeester claim, is added to the object (151). We can see locative media as enabling just that, where additional narrative or historic information is attached to the monument or to a place in a way that augments the memory discourse. This is a great benefit particularly where plaques contain information that, in practical terms, is limited by the size of the plaque, or, in critical terms, is limited by a personal or social bias at the time of the plaques’ inscription. When the purpose of the commemoration is to reinforce hegemonic narratives of nation-building, virtual space becomes an important place for delivering counter-hegemonic memory narratives or spatial histories. It can be argued, then, that these technologies breathe new life into material commemorations, restore their significance, challenge their narrative, or appeal to younger generations of visitors (or even older ones that, as Johnston and Ripmeester have indicated, also know little about their local commemorative landscapes).

16 But attaching extra information to the material object could also risk obstructing the affective or embodied attachments that can be made there. In other words, does technological immersion come at the expense of phenomenological engagement? Referring to memory objects found in museums, Alison Landsberg writes, “Even though you are not invited to touch these objects, their very materiality . . . their seductive tangibility, draws you into a lived relationship with them” (78). As mentioned earlier, monuments, too, by their materiality, can facilitate these kinds of embodied relationships. Their concrete surfaces beckon tactical engagement; their physicality and, for statuary, their representations of the body invite a bodily awareness on the part of the viewer. Conversely, the viewer can be negatively reminded of her body through feelings of discomfort — a large or imposing monument can overwhelm the viewer, eliciting feelings of fear or uneasiness. Regardless, the filter of the mobile device might draw the individual away from tactile engagement or affective intimacy with a monument because her attention is turned towards the mobile device.

17 But even this assumption, that a surfeit of information militates against affective engagement, suggests a dichotomy that links back to a long history of critical discourse surrounding monuments. Much of the criticism surrounding monuments has focused on a monument’s ability to do only “one thing” — its materiality takes away from the dynamic qualities of memory; its prescriptive ideological intent only allows it to produce reductive affects of national belonging. In all of these claims, the materiality of the monument is privileged over its dynamic or affective qualities. Often this is manifested as a critique of a monument’s static form. As Kirk Savage has noted, “Public monuments are [thought to be] the most conservative of commemorative forms precisely because they are meant to last, unchanged, forever” (4). Critics often reference Robert Musil’s famous contention that “what strikes one most about monuments is that one doesn’t notice them. There is nothing in the world as invisible as monuments” (64). Echoes of this sentiment pervade the Johnston and Ripmeester study. Musil goes on to claim, “They are no doubt erected to be seen — indeed, to attract attention. But at the same time they are impregnated with something that repels attention” (64). In response to this, James Young contends that “this ‘something’ is the essential stiffness monuments share with all other images: as a likeness necessarily vitrifies its otherwise dynamic referent, a monument turns pliant memory into stone” (13). For Young there are also political implications in the reification of memory in a monument, as it turns the monument into an object of forgetting. He writes, “Once we assign monumental form to memory, we have to some degree divested ourselves of the obligation to remember. In shouldering the memory-work, monuments may relieve viewers of their memory burden” (5). The idea of shouldering the burden implies that concretized memory is passively experienced and reiterates Pierre Nora’s theory of lieux de mémoire as sites of loss, in that the reification of the past in a monument suggests that the memory is no longer an active part of day-to-day life, or the milieux de mémoire (Nora 7). Moreover, the passivity of the monument, or its naturalization into the landscape, is also politically dangerous because as an ideological tool, monuments can create what Young calls “the illusion of common memory,” where, “in the absence of shared beliefs or common interest, art in public spaces may force an otherwise fragmented populace to frame diverse values and ideas in common spaces” (6). Similarly, Andreas Huyssen has criticized monuments as relics of nation-building that produce unified sentiments, reinforcing the assertion that “fascist tendencies are inherent in every monument” (258).

18 However, the tangibility and permanence of the monument can also lead to diverse affective encounters within, as well as outside of, its ideological intent. As Young suggests, “Once created, memorials take on lives of their own, often stubbornly resistant to the state’s original intention . . . new generations visit memorials under new circumstances and invest them with new meanings. The result is an evolution in the memorial’s significance, generated in the new time and company in which it finds itself” (3). The materiality of the monument and its anchoring to a specific place exposes it to changing spatial and social frameworks. Monuments are therefore subject to what Ann Rigney refers to as dynamics, or the “ongoing process” where sites “become invested with new meanings and gain a new lease on life” (346). The permanence of the monument allows for various physical interventions and inscriptions by the public over time. This includes both state-sanctioned commemorative rituals, such as the laying of wreaths or national ceremonies, as well as protests and defacement.

19 A critique of locative media’s impact on the material experience of a monument, therefore, should not reinforce the affective/intellectual or dynamic/static dichotomies. In fact, I suggest that locative media apps foreground acts of engagement that expand James Young’s definition of counter-monuments. For Young, counter-monuments provide “a valuable ‘counter-index’ to the ways time, memory and current history intersect at any memorial site” (30). They do so by providing opportunities for viewer interaction and engagement. The counter-monument “undermines its own authority by inviting and then incorporating the authority of passersby” and stands in opposition to “the traditional memorial’s task” by inviting “its own violation and desanctification” (33, 30). The primary example Young provides is the “Monument against Fascism” by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev Gerz. This monument, erected in Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, in 1986, consisted of a square, 12-metre tall, lead-coated blank pillar upon which visitors were invited to write messages in opposition to fascism. Over time, the inscribed part of the pillar was lowered into the ground until it was completely submerged and a plaque was left in its place. Young’s definition of counter-monument, therefore, is primarily concerned with avant-garde art pieces constructed in explicit opposition to traditional strategies of memorialization. However, at the core of the counter-monument is the notion that they insist upon visitor interaction and engagement with the monument. But do not all interventions at monuments do this very thing? I would argue that all monuments provide opportunities for public engagement, again whether official (in the form of ritual or ceremony), unofficial (in the form of idling around or sitting on), or political (in the form of protest or intervention). All monuments can signify beyond their static or didactic structure, as they are open to multiple affective encounters or interventions. The difference with the counter-monument is that it has opportunities for public engagement built directly into its aesthetic and physical framework.

20 However, locative media provide a virtual space for similar inscriptions and viewer engagement built into the framework of the app itself. Locative media also serve to foreground the way that time, memory, and current history interact at a site, as Young writes of the counter-monument. As with Forgotten Worker Quest, mobile apps play with the concept of temporal layering in ways that can simultaneously project the past as a distant portal to be opened by the mobile device, but also as something that haunts or impresses upon the present. They too juxtapose the material and the ephemeral and encourage public interaction that serves to augment or challenge conservative definitions of monuments. In this way, perhaps all locative media encounters with a monument can be thought of as an exercise in counter-monument. The physical act of writing on the Gerz pillar becomes a comment or a tag in virtual space. Whether the app explicitly invites user interventions through comments, or simply requires the user to follow a path through physical space, locative apps promote participatory action with monuments or historic sites.

Mobile Memories

21 Capital Tours is an example of one such app that, like Forgotten Worker Quest,has been created for the mnemonic landscape of Ottawa. The app, developed by Canadian Heritage, is self-proclaimed as “the best walking tour app for Ottawa-Gatineau” (“Canada’s Capital Walking Tour”). It operates as a set of tours for Parliament Hill as well as Confederation Boulevard, the Mackenzie King Estate, Gatineau-Hull, and Sparks Street. Arguably, Capital Tours is designed to contribute to the user’s sense of place at key locations around Ottawa’s downtown and at sites deemed to be of national significance. The app’s description promises that users will “Get the scoop on the events, people and history that have shaped this country” and “Learn about Parliament Hill, iconic sites in downtown Ottawa-Gatineau, and Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park” (“Canada’s Capital Walking Tour”). Not only does the app promise to familiarize users with the layout of Ottawa as a place, it also aims to contribute to users’ affective attachments to a broader concept of “nation” through stories of historic figures and events.

22 This promise speaks to how place can be understood as a combination of material properties and affective attachments. Locative media play with this tension, as it is through GPS functions that information about a site is delivered to the user. This combination of GPS coordinates, coupled with the notion that information can be “attached” to a place or “found there,” suggests that there is more to place than simply a set of coordinates. By its very nature, then, mobile locative projects invite users to consider place as more than its material and measurable properties by foregrounding the imaginary or intangible aspects, including affects, that contribute to making place meaningful.

23 This is not to say that the material is unimportant or insignificant, as it is through an individual’s relationship with material objects in space that affective attachments are formed, thus contributing to one’s sense of place. As Tim Cresswell notes, “In any given place we encounter a combination of materiality, meaning and practice” (1). Cresswell suggests that meaning can be both personal and social, or collective. The same can be said for affects. Parliament Hill, for example, is rich with monuments, making it what David Gordon and Brian Osborne have called “a veritable national pantheon of heroes” (619). This collection of statuary, including past prime ministers, monarchs, the Famous Five women, and other individuals deemed to be of national significance, creates what Osborne has termed an “iconic landscape” that reinforces “mythic narratives . . . [of] a cohesive collective memory” (43). However, this cohesive, collective memory is challenged by the “practice” of place. For Cresswell, “practice” refers to the “enacting of place performed by people going about their daily lives” (2). Although Parliament Hill is designed to serve a specific national purpose, the way in which individuals perform actions in that space can reveal a variety of affective attachments, as the Parliamentary Precinct is not only a site for tourists and commemorative rituals, but can also be a site of protest, alienation, or ambivalence.

24 In contrast to the game-like structure of Forgotten Worker Quest,the Capital Tours app operates more as a digital guidebook, providing users with noteworthy facts about the monuments on Parliament Hill. Its multimedia components are limited, as there are only a few pictures attached to each site, and there are no audio or video components. However, at several instances the narrative prompts the user to engage with the surrounding landscape in unique ways by highlighting visual ties between disparate spaces on Parliament Hill. For example, at the monument to Lester B. Pearson, the narrative prompts the user to “look back toward the Centennial Flame” and to “look up to the flag flying on the Peace Tower,” recognizing that Pearson was there at the inaugural presentation of both symbols, creating visual connections for the user between past historic actors and the symbols that represent Canadian nationalism (Canadian Heritage). In terms of multisensory experiences, the app attempts to link the user’s embodied experience of a site to the past, and to a greater embodied sense of national belonging, through reference to imagined spectral bodies. For example, while at the Centennial Flame, the user is invited to walk towards Centre Block noting, “The very steps where you stand have been walked by Queen Elizabeth II, our head of state, and the prime minister, our highest elected official” (Canadian Heritage). Although an attempt to emphasize the democratic space of Parliament Hill (where, as the app notes, “all Canadians have the right to be”), and by extension Canada, the imagined connection with past ritual commemorations reinforces the ubiquitous power of the nation state, as this experience of democracy is framed through a spectral embodied connection to representatives of state power (Canadian Heritage).

25 In both of these instances, the mobile narrative taps into the mythic qualities of the landscape surrounding Parliament and does so self-consciously to foster personal affective attachments in the user. In this way, the app configures time as both historical and affective. This generates a sense of play where past, present, and future lose their distinctness and affects circulate freely among these relations. By situating the user’s embodied sense of place (standing on the steps leading up to Centre Block) in a transhistorical context, the app prompts her to feel a connection to the past, rather than simply perceive the past as a linear (distant) temporality. These kinds of affective experiences of place are enhanced by the formal aspects of mobile narrative that extend the definition of reading as an embodied activity to incorporate aspects of performance and play. The Capital Tours app just begins to scratch the surface of the kinds of bodily engagements prompted by mobile narratives that, as Raley notes, frame users as “‘participants’ rather than ‘readers’” (301). Even when an app is operating as a virtual guidebook, as is the case with Capital Tours, affective and dynamic relationships to space are foregrounded.

26 When a sense of play is incorporated into theories of monument, we avoid privileging a memorial’s materiality over its affective, dynamic qualities. While mobile apps draw us beyond thinking of monuments as static objects, they also draw on the monument’s materiality to emphasize the ephemeral or the mobile. However, because a mobile locative narrative requires the user to move through space and, in the sense of history or memory, move through time as well, the authority of the reified object is dismantled. Instead, mobile memory narratives ultimately work to foster the relationship between a sensing body and a physical environment. They do this by insisting that place is more than just a set of material properties by calling attention to the fluctuating relationship between materiality, time, and affect. In doing so, mobile apps created for national sites of memory, such as Forgotten Worker Quest and Capital Tours, take the focus off of the material memory object and place it onto the user’s embodied relationship to the past. Although the narrative style of these two apps differs, where Forgotten Worker Quest incorporates a more explicit sense of play in the mobile narrative, both insist on the user’s body as a site for memory transmission and as an important part in the construction of memory narratives at historic sites. Not only does this counter the notion of “memory freeze” in monuments and archival objects, it facilitates a relationship to the past that acknowledges its continued presence in the formation of individual attachments to place. Despite ongoing criticism that the use of a mobile device inherently means a disconnect from one’s surrounding environment, mobile apps created for sites of memory demonstrate how these devices can in fact get us back into place in deeper and more meaningful ways.

Works Cited
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Verso, 2006.
“Canada’s Capital Walking Tour.” iTunes Preview,30 July 2015,
Canadian Heritage/Patrimoine canadien.Capital Tours. Computer Software.Apple App Store, Vers. 1.1.2, 30 July 2015.
Cresswell, Tim. “Place.” International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, vol. 8, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 169-77.
Farman, Jason. “Site-Specificity, Pervasive Computing, and the Reading Interface.” The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies, edited by Jason Farman, Routledge, 2014, pp. 3-16.
Gordon, David, and Brian Osborne. “Constructing National Identity in Canada’s Capital, 1900-2000: Confederation Square and the National War Memorial.”Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 20, 2004, pp. 618-42.
Greenspan, Brian, and Jennifer R. Whitson. “Whether to Play or Preserve the Past? Creating the Forgotten Worker Quest.” Proceedings from the Foundation of Digital Games, 14-17 May 2013, Chania, Crete, Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games.
Heidegger, Martin. “The Thing.” Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstafter, Harper & Row, 1971, pp. 163-84.
Huyssen, Andreas.Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. Routledge,1995.
Johnston, Russell, and Michael Ripmeester. “‘That Big Statue of Whoever’: Material Commemoration and Narrative in the Niagara Region.” Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada, edited by James Opp and John C. Walsh, U of British Columbia P, 2010, pp. 130-58.
Landsberg, Alison. “America, the Holocaust, and the Mass Culture of Memory: Toward a Radical Politics of Empathy.” New German Critique, vol. 71, no. 1, 1997, pp. 63-86.
McAuley, Gay. “Place in the Performance Experience.” Modern Drama, vol. 46, no. 4, 2003, pp. 598-613.
McLuhan, Marshall.Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.McGraw-Hill, 1964.
Meyrowitz, Joshua. “The Rise of Glocality: New Senses of Place and Identity in the Global Village.” A Sense of Place: The Global and The Local in Mobile Communication , edited by Kristóf Nyíri, Passagen, 2005, pp. 21-30.
Musil, Robert. “Monuments.” Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, translated by Peter Wortsman, Archipelago Books, 2006, pp. 64-68.
Nora, Pierre. “Between Memory and History:Les Lieux de Mémoire.”Representations, no. 26, 1989, pp. 7-24.
Osborne, Brian. “Landscapes, Memory, Monuments, and Commemoration: Putting Identity in its Place.” Canadian Ethnic Studies , vol. 33, no. 3, 2001, pp. 39-77.
Raley, Rita. “Walk This Way: Mobile Narrative as Composed Experience.” Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres , edited by Jorgen Schafer and Peter Gendolla, Transcript, 2010, pp. 299-316.
Relph, Edward. Place and Placelessness. Pion, 1976.
Rigney, Ann. “The Dynamics of Remembrance: Texts Between Monumentality and Morphing.”Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook , edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, Walter de Gruyter, 2009, pp. 345-53.
Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton UP, 1997.
Varnelis, Kazys, and Anne Friedberg. “Place: The Networking of Public Space.” Networked Publics, edited by Kazys Varnelis, MIT P, 2008, pp. 15-42.
Young, James.The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. Yale UP, 1993.