Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Twitter: The Future of History?

Recently, the Library of Congress announced that it would be accepting all of twitter’s archives for its digital collections. This has led to interesting questions about the use of Twitter by historians in the future. Slate had a great article about the myriad ways historians might use twitter in the future. Namely, food historians could use tweets about different products to track consumer product reactions. Historians could also use the trending feature on twitter to see how quickly different trends spread and how.  
 Here is a great interview with Martha Anderson, the director of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress. In her conversation with Phoebe Connelly, she discusses how the Library acquired the Twitter archive and how they might organize it to make it available to the public. Good news: if you have any embarrassing tweets, you have up to 6 months after posting them to delete them before they become archived by the Library of Congress. This means you John Mayer!
I think this development is a great step in the right direction. For years, historians have been worried about how we will tell the story of our generation when there are no longer any letter writers or many diarists (even if there are more of those then we think). Today’s generation seems to sharing most of its reactions, experiences and random thoughts online. The idea that we can harness the data of these social networking sites is great news to everyone worried about saving our history and a warning to the classic over-sharers who hang out online: you are leaving a bigger footprint than you may know!

[Images via Wikimedia]

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