There’s no question that technology has affected the way our world communicates. News can circulate the world in a matter of minutes via a 140-character tweet, and parents can share photos of their children with family, friends, and casual acquaintances with a click of the mouse.

Technology makes it easy to share the present, but now researchers are questioning whether technology affects the way we view our past.

Rhetoric and communication studies professor Paul Achter is studying how technology, specifically television, affects the way we view and record history. He and a group of collaborators received a $540,000 grant from the Swedish Central Bank Foundation to fund three years of research.

“We’re looking at how television creates this instant history and what this means,” Achter said. “This new form of history isn’t how historians think about history.”

The project, “Chronicle, Catastrophe, Ritual: Television Historiography and Transnational Politics,” will examine how television affects cultural memory. Achter will focus on three temporal modes of television: chronicles (history, documentary, fiction); catastrophes (such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina); and rituals (organized global media events such as U.S. presidential elections or the World Cup).

Achter has collaborated with professors at Södertörn University in Sweden for five years, and in 2009 he brought 12 University of Richmond students with him to Sweden for a course in media studies and nationalism. He was hoping to bring Swedish students to Richmond to continue his research in the summer of 2011.

“When we started to think about what the exchange would be, we realized that the Swedish students wouldn’t be available until the summer,” Achter said. “We didn’t want to bring the students to an empty campus in June. We knew we’d have to do something more creative.”

Achter’s solution: take the students on the road. Next summer he and Södertörn colleague Steffan Ericson will teach a Tocqueville seminar that will include a bus tour of the American south.

He’s joining forces with professor Melissa Ooten, director of the Women in Living and Learning program, who’s offered a three-week summer travel course on the Civil Rights movement since 2006. Students enrolled in “A Course in Motion: The Civil Rights Movement in the South” have traveled through nine southeastern states, visiting memorials and museums and meeting with scholars and activists.

The two professors will team teach “Monument, Museum, Memorial,” which will focus on civil rights; race, space and place; transnational history; and memory.

“The new course will be centered on American studies and utilize a truly interdisciplinary framework,” Ooten said. “We hope to combine our interests and expertise in the Civil Rights movement, women’s and gender studies, media studies, and cultural studies to create a course that will push students to interrogate both the historical and contemporary south.”

Both she and Achter are eager to utilize the global perspective the Swedish students will bring to the class.

“It’s also exciting that Swedish students will be joining us, as it will allow for even deeper conversations about the South and its place not only within the larger U.S., but also globally.”