A New Way To Remember
Every November time stops, for just a minute. The act of remembrance is passive by definition; we recall an event, a person, or moment that's seeded in the past. But what happens when we take those static acts and allow them to bump up against other events, and people, and moments? To let them live.
In 2010 Good Digital Culture launched PoppyFile, a web-based visual experience of fallen WWII soldiers from Toronto. 40,000 users accessed the site in its first week. Its impact was the impetus for The Fallen, a not-for-profit, iPad App designed to enliven remembrance – even if for a day. The Fallen uses public data from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to give Canadians a different way to memorialize those who gave their lives in service during the Boer War, through the World Wars, Korean War, our Peacekeeping Missions and Afghanistan.
Canadian soldiers, nurses, and peacekeepers are buried or memorialized on every continent around the world. Some in places where there has never been a conflict. Why are Canadians buried in Russia? What happened to a crew of Toronto boatmen on the Nile? The randomness of these sites is interesting because, in actuality, there's nothing random about it at all. All of these Canadians lost their lives on a military expedition.
There is always a context behind data. The Fallen breathes life into 118,000 individual pieces of data, by allowing users to discover and contribute to solider statistics. Learn about these people, what force they served, their rank, and where they are laid to rest. Participate in the narrative and commemorate Fallen family members by adding information and photographs. Browse your neighbourhood and see where next of kin live, or once lived. Challenge your ideas of who has served and how, by discovering the women who made a significant impact to military service, first as nurses and then as soldiers in combat. The Fallen is an engagement tool to help contextualize history for a younger generation.
Animating the existing data compiled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission allows us to experience, learn, and share the act of remembrance in lockstep with modern social digital culture. We can rethink history through government-compiled data that's presented in an accessible way. We can memorialize family members and friends who served by sharing details of their lives and service. Over time, as The Fallen grows through user-generated content, we hope to build dimensionalized, factual storytelling from the most compelling crowd-sourced narratives. It's a new way of looking at history, through individual experience. The Fallen is an experiment in unfreezing time, and carrying remembrance into the future.