Digitalising the Transatlantic Narrative
“Knowledge – that is, education in its true sense – is our best protection against unreasoning prejudice and panic-making fear, whether engendered by special interest, illiberal minorities, or panic-stricken leaders” (Franklin D. Roosevelt).
With the current state of the transatlantic partnership at a low point and the transatlantic narrative in doubt, we need a strategy aiming at inspiring young people in Europe and America to engage in creating a strong future for the partnership. I propose a unique, innovative, and content-driven platform that will alter the transatlantic discourse. Today digital communication has overtaken print media as the main source of news for multiple generations. Unfortunately, with the rise of new opportunities and media outlets, phenomenon such as fake news and alternative facts have begun to distort digital media and negatively impact the transatlantic discourse. While it may not be able to stop the rise of false and negative stories, my proposed media outlet will be driven by the people, offering young and old a new way to study historical events and shape future opportunities. An interactive and digital museum of transatlantic relations should invite different stakeholders in transatlantic relations to participate. The name of the platform
North-Atlantic Crossings – A Modern Museum
already points to its goal. A similar platform already exists in the project of LeMO (Lebendiges Museum Online – Living Museum Online) which is an online portal on German history.
The content will focus on key elements of transatlantic history, in which crises and contentious parts should not be left out but rather explained from different national perspective to foster mutual understanding. One part of the website will put a focus on the founding story of transatlantic relations and the ideas and values that have led to its foundation, to remind communities on both sides of the Atlantic of the beginnings of our common history. It is essential to offer both a European and an American perspective on these issues. Yet, while remembering our roots is important, we also need to transport these values into our contemporary societies and show how they still matter today. It is vital to offer a contemporary link to show that the Atlantic community does not only have a shared past but also a common future. While surely our traditional founding story and the political implications are still the basis of the partnership, a focus on both popular and high culture could add another layer of interest.
The aim of the platform is to involve different stakeholders to offer a variety of viewpoints and opinions. Politicians, scientists, historians, grassroots activists, interested citizens but also students should be invited to contribute to the online exhibition through their medium of choice. It is pivotal that the platform is “for the people, from the people”. There will be content supervisors who monitor contributions to make sure that they are factual and respective of other people’s opinions and views. However, the aim is to have a high variety of stakeholders contributing from different national, political and generational standpoints. While the main focus should be on Atlantic countries, another layer of interest could be added through the participation of non-Atlantic countries to show how the Atlantic partnership is viewed from the outside. Different stakeholders will be invited to participate and there would also be an open call to ask people for their contributions.
The content should be devised from traditional elements such as texts, documents, contemporary witnesses but should also include videos and interactive representations, for example maps, graphs, and videos. Experience reports, musical contributions and short movies are preferred over more traditional forms such as essays and photos. This is meant to exemplify the wide variety of events and impacts on transatlantic relations. While the core of the online exhibition can be provided by content supervisors, different perspectives should be added through the contribution of the stakeholders described above. The structure of the platform will be similar to a traditional museum, with a “permanent exhibition” with a main focus on historical aspects and a “temporary exhibition” that deals with current issues and topics and changes every few months. This approach ensures that the content stays relevant and the platform moves with the time.
There are clear advantages of an online-based approach to renewing the transatlantic narrative. The first advantage is that it will reach those who are traditionally not involved in transatlantic relations due to the limitations of travel time and costs. Moreover, a website offers the advantage that it is not limited to time and space. While of course not everyone has internet access, the internet penetration rate in North America and Europe remains high (88.1% in North America and 77.4% in Europe). Second, such a website will also be of interest to schools and students studying transatlantic relations because it can offer materials for teachers and through a modern and interactive approach school projects could even be published on the website to give a voice to the youngest in our societies. Third, the digital and interactive approach makes it more accessible for a younger generation that spends a lot of time online. Thus, through an interactive digital approach based on our founding story with connection to current issues and an additional focus on cultural aspects, the transatlantic narrative can be re-invigorated. Moreover, through the participation of different groups in the creation but also through different visitors of the online platform new impetus will be given to the transatlantic narrative and can strengthen the collective memory of the North Atlantic Area for generations to come.