Collective Memory and Design in Hong Kong

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Master of Design
School of Design
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

SD 5002 Design and Culture

Collective Memory and Design in Hong Kong

Subject Leader
Laurent Gutierrez

Co-Presenters
Dr. Valerie Portefaix

Student
Lo Ching Man
09682926G
fayelcm@hotmail.com
Collective Memory and Design in Hong Kong

Introduction

From 1990s, the term collective memory emerged in the Hong Kong society. It is commonly used in the community and the media nowadays. People are growing interest in preserve the objects related to our collective memory, such as the Star ferry Pier, the Queen’s Pier, Lee Tung Street. Also recently the Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan, the shooting location for the acclaimed film “Echoes of the Rain”. Originally the plan was to preserve just three of the 12 tenements on the street, but now it is confirmed to preserve all areas in response to the public’s request.

Besides the historic and cultural landmark, there are many places, events, people and objects which are becoming our collective memory in the public. What does it imply to our culture and identity? According to Mr Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of HKSAR (CE’s letter to Hong Kong, January 28, 2007), “perhaps it has arisen as people reflect on their cultural identity and what it means to be a citizen of the HKSAR. The result is a growing sense of history, rooted in locality and focused on a sense of place. Perhaps it is feeling that has been gathering momentum since our Reunification in 1997, as people seek to identify with the place they were brought up and wher they work and live.” Perhaps Mr Tsang’s message is correct. There are many objects in the past. While some of them have become our collective memory but most of them were being forgetten. How does the collective memory change in response to socio-political changes? How does the design objects in related to our cultural memory? And finally how is our design products reflected our culture?

What is collective memory?”

Maurice Halbwaches (1877-1945) published a landmark study on “On Collective Memory” in 1925. According to Halbwaches, studying memory is not a matter of reflecting on the properties of the subjective mind, rather memory is a matter of how minds work together in society, how their operations are structured by social arrangemets: “It is in society that people normally acquire their memories. It is also in society that they recall, recognize, and localize their memories” . Halbwaches argued that it is impossible for individuals to remember any coherent and persistent fashion outside of their group contexts. Group memberships provide the materials for memory and prod the individual into recalling particular events and into forgetting others. Groups can even produce memories in individuals of events that they never experienced in any direct sense. The collective memory is shared, passed on and also constructed by the group.

Figure 1. Individual, collective and culture as a single unit of analysis

“There is no individual memory without social experiences nor is there any collective memory without individuals participating in communal life” (Olick. J.K., 1999). Collective memory is a dynamic cultural practice that sustains the cultural continuity of a community and in the meantime adapts to the cultural transformation of the community in a historical era. (Wang, Q., 2008). Hong Kong Characteristics and Cultural Identity

• Transformation
“Colonialism has taken away Hong Kong people’s sense of being Chinese. They need to build up their identity as Chinese.” (Li You ,1989) Hong Kong people have undergone a transformation of the culture identity. The formation of a distinctive local identity has only taken root since the late 1970s, when the new-found Hong Kong identity was largely constructed by foregrounding cultural differences between Hong Kong people and mainland Chinese. The majority of Hong Kong people are ethnic...
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