Surveillance and Social Memory: Remembering Princess Diana with CCTV
“[t]he longstanding and complicated role that journalism has played in keeping the past alive. From anniversary issues and media retrospectives to simple verbal and visual analogies connecting past and present, journalism incorporates an address to earlier times across the wide array of its conventions and practices”.(, p. 1)
“In an era of increasingly blended performative domains, of recycled narratives, pictures and impulses that are no longer identifiably tethered to one point in time, of information that seems to come from nowhere, a recognition that journalism regularly and systematically looks backward is long overdue”.(, p. 1)
2. CCTV Images as Memory Media
The Narrative Potential of CCTV Images
“It is impossible to overstate the significance of narrative in cultural memory […] not just as the (continuously negotiated) contents of shared/collective memory-stories, but also of the activity of recounting or telling memory-stories, in both private and public contexts—in other words, of performances of memory.”
3. Historical Context
The Cultural Work of the Last Images of Princess Diana
4. Case Studies
4.1. “A Familiar Smile”: The Ritz Surveillance Camera Footage During the 2007 Inquest
“Like a pure abstraction of the public sphere or an event without history, the CCTV image designates an excess of mimesis over that of narrative meaning […]. The entire three sequences [of video footage of Damilola shortly before him being stabbed, NF] are haunted by this symbolic distance between what appears and what remains ungraspable as resemblance: the death of a boy that cannot be seen and which, because of this, appears everywhere in these images, but without which these images remain an empty sign of that event, a semblance in which his death has vanished. […] Where do we see [the death of the boy]? At first sight it seems untraceable, impossible: the freedom to replay, freeze or enlarge the video image only realizes the following: These images are empty and inaccessible, they cannot act as witnesses to what we know (or imagine) as the death of this boy, a death which remains outside the time and processes of the televisual image.”(, p. 321)
Male Commentator: “Although these seem to be rather boring pictures, these are, in fact, historical. These are the very last pictures we will ever see of Princess Diana alive, and within 15 min of these pictures, Diana and Dodi Fayed will be dead […]. These are moving pictures, I think, although this is just an empty corridor here.”
4.2. Narrating A Befitting Death: Keith Allen’s Unlawful Killing (2011)
“It is true that no CCTV footage was ever produced or mentioned by the police. […]. Once the police said that the speed camera at the Alma was malfunctioning, the disinformation spread and was exaggerated in a way very familiar to those who study rumor. Soon the story spiraled into the ‘fact’ that all the cameras on the route were out of action that night.”(, p. 158)
1:04:54–1:04:59 empty video tape running on screenNarrator: “what you are seeing is what the CCTV camera at the entry of the Alma tunnel was recording at the time of the crash.”1:05:00–1:05:01 empty video tape running on screenNarrator: “nothing.”1:05:02–1:05:09 Alma tunnel entry, normal daytime trafficNarrator: “because it was switched off, although it is usually switched on 24 hours a day.”01:05:10 image of the CCTV camera outside the tunnelNarrator: “was that just another coincidence…”01:05:12 poster of Di at Alma tunnel entry, handwritten on it: “ti amo sempre”Narrator: “…or something more sinister?”
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1While Fludernik  argues that experientiality might be the basic definer for fictional narrative only, I propose that especially memory studies show the existence of factual narratives with very high levels of experientiality. However, there is an important difference between Fludernik’s and my use of the terms “experiential” and “experientiality”: While Fludernik means to denote ways in which we are made aware of narrators and actors feelings in narrative, I also wish to denote the many other ways in which a medial artefact can make the recipient react emotionally with a sense of experiencing to it. Therefore, in my use, experientiality is a reading effect rather than a property of the narrative text itself.
- 2Female commentator voice: “Diana in a light-coloured suit, Dodi Al-Fayed next to her, putting his arm around her, escorting her through” (0:01:04–07), “You can see Diana smiling there, just having arrived in Paris, looking up at the camera, though probably not realising it is there, looking very relaxed there with Dodi Al-Fayed, looking very happy” (0:01:31–38); SKY News 3 October 2007, Diana’s last hours—YouTube, video 1 .
- 3Diana’s last hours—YouTube, video 2 .
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Falkenhayner, N. Surveillance and Social Memory: Remembering Princess Diana with CCTV. Humanities 2016, 5, 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030073
Falkenhayner N. Surveillance and Social Memory: Remembering Princess Diana with CCTV. Humanities. 2016; 5(3):73. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030073Chicago/Turabian Style
Falkenhayner, Nicole. 2016. "Surveillance and Social Memory: Remembering Princess Diana with CCTV" Humanities 5, no. 3: 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030073