Title: Tripadvisor rates Einstein: using the social web to unpack the public meanings of a cultural heritage site

Authors: Trevor Owens

Addresses: Centre for History and New Media, Department of History and Art History, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MSN 1E7, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, USA

Abstract: Near the US Capitol, in front of the National Academy of Sciences sits a gigantic bronze statue of Albert Einstein. The monument was created to celebrate Einstein and the sense of awe and wonder his work represents. However, while under construction, art critics and some scientists derided the idea of the memorial. They felt the scale of such a giant memorial did not fit the modesty of Einstein. This paper explores the extent to which perspectives of the monument|s public supporters and critics can be seen in how people interact with it as evidenced in reviews and images of the monument posted online. I analyse how individuals appropriate the monument on social websites, including Fickr, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Yahoo Travel, as a means to explore how the broader public co-creates the meaning of this particular memorial. I argue this case-study can serve as an example for leveraging the social web as a means to understand cultural heritage sites.

Keywords: public history; history of science; public understanding of science; pop-cosmopolitanism; Flickr; Yelp; Tripadvisor; Yahoo Travel; cultural heritage sites; social web; monuments; memory; Albert Einstein; Robert Berks; Phillip Handler; USA; United States; public monuments; public memorials.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2012.044681

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2012 Vol.8 No.1, pp.40 - 56

Published online: 20 Aug 2014 *

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