Through running an archival website (http://www.pebblemill.org/) and associated Facebook page, which document the programme making and history of BBC Pebble Mill (1970-2005), I have observed the phenomenon that frequently the more bland or empty a remediated shared image may be, the more it evokes a nostalgic response from the online community.
The photograph accompanying this post appears to be a relatively dull image. The text on the image are some of the comments posted on social media in response to the photograph. The deserted institutional workplace restaurant is fondly remembered because of its social connotations, as well as its food: an important place for taking a quick break or a meal during or at the end of a shift, with the excitement that you never quite knew who you might meet, with the comings and goings of actors and celebrities. This story could not be told without the remediation of the photograph to evoke the memories.
Ironically, the fact that the photograph is so seemingly uninspiring, appears actually be an asset. John Berger makes a paradoxical comment that the, ‘sharper and more isolated the stimulus memory receives, the more it remembers; the more comprehensive the stimulus, the less it remembers’ (1992, p.193). Thus, a black and white image, or a bland image, as here, can provoke more comprehensive memories, than a colourful and lively photograph. The argument is counterintuitive, but it is true of the image above, where the deserted space allows participants to project their own memories of the institution of the canteen, without the distraction of a specific event to focus their memories elsewhere. What is clear, is that the photograph acts as a prompt for users of the Facebook page to reflect on their memories, and share those thoughts with others, and that the quality of the prompting image is a lower order priority. The sharing of memories on the page becomes a social interaction: the personal memory situated in the collective memory of a particular time and place, tinged with a sense of nostalgia.
Source: Berger, John. About Looking. Penguin,1992.