11/12/22

Twttr

While I was not necessarily optimistic about the future of Twitter following its acquisition by Elon Musk in October of this year, the rapid onset of volatility and chaos across the platform has been surprising. As others have outlined in detail, current leadership of the company is trying to rapidly raise revenue from existing users with limited success, laying off much of the existing workforce, floating bankruptcy, and generally posting through it.

I’ve been reflecting on the lives (and deaths) so social media sites more than usual this week and. I joined back in the summer of 2009 while working a corporate job in New York City in what feels like a different lifetime. I was also reminded that I’ve written no less than four papers which are specifically about Twitter. It’s a profoundly strange feeling to consider that the subject of these research studies may soon look quite different than it did when I wrote about it, if it exists at all.

Back in 2014, I investigated how archives were using Twitter to promote their collections, engage with users, report on events, and what else they were up to. At that time, all Twitter accounts had RSS feeds which made data collection of public accounts quite easy and reflected the original conception of the service as a “microblogging” platform, in contrast to “macroblogs” like this here website built with WordPress.

Following the 2016 Presidential Election and beginning of the Trump administration, I began collaborating with my colleague Amelia Acker at the University of Texas at Austin on a series of studies on Presidential social media, specifically the preservation of Presidential tweets. We first looked at preservation of Obama administration social media accounts and the first Presidential Social Media Transition, highlighting the platform-specific issues around managing these digital objects as federal records. In our next co-authored paper, we examined how APIs shape the ability of cultural heritage professionals and memory workers to collect, preserve, and provide access to social media platform data. Most recently, we returned to Presidential social media and unpacked how the role of Twitter as a private platform hosting public records affects issues related to digital preservation for presidential records.

What do these papers, particularly the most recent trio, portend about Twitter? Amelia and I have been working to highlight the deep tension between the platform’s identity as a private company and it’s function as a digital public square. We’ve pointed out more than once that the risks of leaving government records on private social media platforms is quite risky and creates major potential challenges for archives and digital preservation professionals. I remain proud of this work and confident that the ideas discussed in these papers will be valuable even if the platform changes on a fundamental level. An article published just today in the MIT Technology Review points out some of these risks and reaffirms the value of Twitter as a living historical record with the potential to inform our understanding of this era into the future.

There’s so much more to say about all of this but it looks like this is the sixth paragraph of this post and, thanks to a tweet I read today, I know that if you write more than six paragraphs about any one topic, you f*cked up. The future of Twitter looks quite unsteady, that’s about all I’m willing to predict today. As for me, while I might try to post here on my own personal piece of internet real estate more frequently, you will still find me on Twitter until the bitter end, doomscrolling through niche memes, news stories, celebrity posts, sports updates, and whatever else pops up…

12/19/17

End of Year Update

Earlier this week I looked at this website and realized I had not posted anything on here since January! That’s far too long to go without any updates, so here’s a few highlights of what I’ve been up to at the University of Maryland iSchool this year…

I have continued my research and work at the USDA National Agricultural Library, along with an additional project on the preservation of social media data from the Barack Obama presidential administration. Here are a few of the peer-reviewed papers I authored along with various colleagues that were published during the past few months:

  • Kahn, E., Arbuckle, P., Kriesberg, A. (2017) Challenge Paper: Challenges to Sharing Data and Models for Life Cycle Assessment. Journal of Data and Information Quality. 9(1), https://doi.org/10.1145/3106236
  • Kriesberg, A., Huller, K., Punzalan, R., Parr, C. (2017) An Analysis of Federal Policy on Public Access to Scientific Research Data. Data Science Journal. 16, p.27. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/dsj-2017-027
  • Acker, A., & Kriesberg, A. (2017). Tweets may be archived: Civic engagement, digital preservation and Obama white house social media data: Tweets May Be Archived: Civic Engagement, Digital Preservation and Obama White House Social Media Data. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 54(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2017.14505401001.

I’ve taught a total of three courses in the MLIS program to iSchool Masters students: INST 641: Policy and Ethics in Digital Curation, INST 643: Curation in Cultural Institutions, and INST 647: Management of Electronic Records and Information. I’ve included links to syllabi in the previous sentence to give an idea of the types of topics covered in these courses. My teaching experiences have been mostly very positive- I’ve enjoyed working with the students here in College Park and helping them develop the skills and knowledge to become successful archivists, librarians, and information professionals.

Beyond that, this year I traveled to Barcelona for the 9th RDA Plenary meeting, attended a workshop on the Impact of Digital Repositories, attended AERI in Toronto, and helped facilitate workshops here at the UMD Libraries on Wikipedia and steps to protect Endangered Data. It’s been quite a year!

I’d like to wish all my readers, colleagues, reviewers (even you, reviewer #2), family and friends a happy holiday season and new year. I’ll leave you with a seasonally appropriate GIF from the National Archives and a nod to next year’s Winter Olympics.

via GIPHY

07/4/16

Web Archiving #Brexit

Like many of us around the world, I’ve been following the news out of the United Kingdom after the country voted to leave the EU late last month. In the aftermath of the vote, many Britons were shocked to discover that some of the “Leave” campaign’s promises related to the money paid to the E.U. by the United Kingdom were not going to come to fruition. These are documented across the web, but this succinct Boing Boing post highlights the attempts by these politicians to erase their old campaign website from the internet. Thanks to the Internet Archive, it continues its life as a cached copy, documenting the change to the website which removed content relating to increasing funding for the National Health Service, among other social programs. I was struck by the power of web archiving to document political movements as they are represented online, and how they make it more difficult for politicians to eliminate potentially embarrassing content from the internet.

This article reminded me of another excellent example of the power of web archiving, from the New Yorker article “The Cobweb” by Jill Leopore. She explained that the internet archive also preserved a copy of a website maintained by Ukrainian separatists which appears to show that this group was responsible for downing the Malaysia Airlines flight which went down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Why was this particular site was crawled by Internet Archive bots? Well, because:

Anatol Shmelev, the curator of the Russia and Eurasia collection at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford, had submitted to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library in California, a list of Ukrainian and Russian Web sites and blogs that ought to be recorded as part of the archive’s Ukraine Conflict collection.

I recognize that these two events are not particularly related, other than the fact that web archiving figures in our attempts to understand current events and monitor how people represent themselves and their politics online. As more of our collective lives as humans are lived out in digital spaces, resources like the Internet Archive will only become more valuable as a way of piecing the past together. If you haven’t explored the Wayback Machine, give it a shot! I guarantee you’ll find some really interesting/fun/terrible/amazing old websites on there, just punch in a few domains and have fun…

(P.S. Jill Lepore is the best. Her first book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity was a major inspiration for my senior honors thesis in History. Read it! Or, at least read more of her articles in the New Yorker, they are awesome.)

10/2/13

I’m a little late on this one, but I wanted to quickly comment on a new project, perma.cc, which came across my internet last week. Essentially, this is a tool (currently in beta but hopefully live soon!) that will allow users to submit web links for sources they would like to cite in academic articles. These links would have permanent URLs created for them, and have snapshots taken of their content for preservation.

A blog post I read about this project notes that link rot is pervasive across government reports (http://freegovinfo.info/node/4005). I will also add that in my short time in academia I have encountered numerous dead or otherwise incorrect links. This has proven frustrating at times and I’m happy to see some of my favorite institutions joining together to build a much-needed tool to enable digitally sustainable scholarship. Link rot is real- now something is being done about it.