Light Externalizes Collective Memory around the UCSB Community

From the beginning of time, light has been of utmost importance for the survival of all living beings. Even in the earliest of myths of human existence, Prometheus risked his life to steal fire from the Gods in order to bring warmth and light to human beings. Light has both physical and symbolic significance. Light allows for the existence of humankind and essentially all life on earth. Light is also very symbolic; it represents the remembrance of others, the purity of light overcoming the evils of darkness, and the hope for a better and more blissful future–even in the most uncertain times.

Collective memory is the shared memory between a group of individuals that forms the connections binding a community into solidarity. According to Dee Britton, externalization of collective memory is used in many circumstances, one of the most important ways is through memorialization. In a case of a very tragic event, a community will often times build a memorial site to honor those who were lost. As reported by in the Los Angeles Times article, Full Coverage Isla Vista killings near UC Santa Barbara,” the 2014 Isla Vista tragedy led to many commemorative memorials for those who were lost, and these all externalize collective memory. These three sites involving remembrance through light are all a piece of a greater whole; they externalize collective memory by representing a community’s memories of a certain time, as well as serving as a place for reflecting on this tragedy that the UCSB community experienced. Although this occurrence was the most horrific event in UCSB history, the separate communities of the Isla Vista students and the UCSB staff came together and found strength and unity within each other.


Photo by Paul Wellman/Santa Barbara Independent.  Used by permission of the photographer.     During the candle light vigil these students pay respect to their fellow fallen peers and share in a grand sense of community as they come together in unity to gain strength in numbers.











The first memorial of light that followed the tragedy was the UCSB candle light vigil. This vigil brought students together to try and find comfort, strength, and understanding through their a sense of community. For the second annual candle light vigil a year later, LED tea lights were handed out to all that attended, and they replaced the candles that were used in the original memorial. These blue LED lights have become the symbol of unity in the UCSB community following this tragedy. Despite the 2014 (Fiegerman)and 2015 (Potthoff) candle light vigils having a very similar purpose, they varied slightly in their function and style.

Photo by Naomi Patton.  Used by Permission of the Photographer. The image shows how”blunite” help keep Isla Vista illuminated, while promoting unity between all members of the UCSB community.

The second and more enduring memorial done following the tragedy was an encouragement of the use of blue LED lights around the community. As related by Santa Barbara Independent reporter Mark Salay, “Blunite” was created following the Isla Vista tragedy, this event encourages the community to use blue LED lights to illuminate the square mile town packed with college student. This was an idea by a UCSB art professor and her students to remember those who were lost, and ultimately create solidarity within the entire UCSB community.


Photo by Author. At night the Pardall Tunnel Lights illuminate the connection from the Isla Vista student community onto the UCSB campus

The third and most permanent memorial involving light at UCSB following the 2014 tragedy was completed one year after the occurrence. The Pardall Tunnel Lights (which you can learn more about through the video link posted by Senerey de los Santos to the KEYT Website) are the most magnificent of a three part light system that begins at the tunnel and leads through campus. They were all made in memory of the Isla Vista tragedy. The other two areas include LED solar powered lights that illuminate the trees and other greenery that beautify the campus. This tunnel acts as the conduit connecting the campus and Isla Vista, and the lights remind us of the stronger bond between these two entities that ensued.

These three memorials externalize the collective memory of the UCSB community following May 2014 tragedy. These memorials serve as pieces to a greater whole of light remembrance sites and ceremonies that commemorate the ones who lost their lives. The symbol of light in the UCSB community brings all denizens of the area together into a strong, united entity. These lights also serve to keep UCSB students and staff safe for the years to come. Collective memory is externalized through these memorials and they ultimately allow for the community as a whole to make amends with its past and to gain solidarity and strength which will allow for a more positive future.

Works Cited and Referenced

Britton, Dee. “What is Collective Memory.” Memorial Worlds, 2012, Accessed 13 June 2017.

De los Santos, Senerey. “Pardall Tunnel Shining Light On The Year Anniversary Of Isla Vista Tragedy.” KEYT Website, 23 May 2015,  Accessed 13 June 2017.

Fiegerman, Seth. “Santa Barbara Community Holds Vigil, Classmates Remember Victims Online.” Mashable, 25 May 2014,, Accessed 13 June 2017.

Full Coverage Isla Vista killings near UC Santa Barbara.” Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2014, Accessed 13 June 2017.

“Light Passages.” UCSB Current, 22 May 2015,  Accessed 13 June 2017.

Potthoff, Gina. “Isla Vista Lights Up As Community Remembers 6 UCSB Students Killed in 2014 Massacre.” Noozhawk, 23 May 2015, Accessed 13 June 2017.

Salay, Mark. “Blunite Lights Up Isla Vista: Blue LEDs Memorialize May 23 Killings.” Santa Barbara Independent, 21 May 2015,  Accessed 13 June 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s