Evidence of ‘digital’ me/us

August 23rd, 2010 § 3

I am interested in talking about the implications of online social (digital) technologies and how their role as evidence of  the actions of an individual participating within a group as well as in the broader context of online groups and communities.

When I say evidence I mean how the material generated from interaction from social tech is identified as a record – ownership, communication and sharing.  When is this material considered a record and how does the media it is created on impact on it?  What role or place does this information/process have in social history, cultural heritage and institutional collections, if any?

I also wonder about other places of social media where a ‘traditional’ record is being augmented by online interactions – participatory archives, or even just the flickr collection of an archival institution  - what role does the participant have as part of the ever-evolving record (both online and in the institution’s collection)?

§ 3 Responses to “Evidence of ‘digital’ me/us”

  • S_Russell says:

    I’m aware of a variety of social spaces which produce more formal long term records. Whirlpool forum’s sticky threads (always appearing first in the thread list). Long running USENET/forum type threads often achieve this kind of significant role. As does cross-linking or review threads. These kinds of records usually have a relatively long survival, in the period of a couple of years, between the hosting authority’s media campaigns. (Suddenly, the data holding business changes its attitude and the content disappears, or a three year cycle of social and technical back-ups fail, or the social space fails). Records here may be attributed to individuals as producers, but seem to be “held” as common property.

    Other spaces with more ephemeral production methods have explicit strategies for archiving. Screenshots, or automated data extraction methods save the (hour life span) ephemera. More socially significant items get backed up explicitly. The life time of these methods appears to be less than a year, generally, as the record storage is done by fans and hobbyists and they experience regular technical and social crashes. I’m thinking, as an example, of the *chans. These communities are often self-documenting in other formats, due to wikis, and the wikis preserve a record of the actual events even when the original items are lost. Again, the feeling is that the interactions are communally owned, there appears to be no resentment at offsite documentation of records (apart from “original content, do not steal issues” with deviantArt / fanfiction and other creative content generators).

    Quite a lot of record production and storage seems to rely on electronic packrats. The discovery of hoarded USENET posts ( http://dir.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/01/07/saving_usenet/index.html ) as a classic example.

    The holding authority (google) has not been a good records manager ( http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/10/usenet/ ). Search methods have been destroyed, archives are permanently unavailable by any method (other than apparently flat searches and trawling through years of searches on a term in the post you seek to find). And the feeling is strongly that the cause is commercial.

    I’ve got no idea when or if these records actually reach a competent authority. When Google saved DejaNews everyone treated it as a triumph for responsible records storage…

  • Lise says:

    In one sense all communication is a record – who keeps it depends on how proactive you want to be in creating and maintaining your own posterity. In a sense, asking Google or similar to act as the archival agency is to abrogate our own responsibility. It’s a bit like asking Australian Paper Mills to set up an archive. They provide the medium, we provide the content.

    I’m hoping though, that these comments and threads, for example, are being kept as part of the records for the THATcamp movement either at George Mason Uni, or by the sponsoring body here, the University of Canberra.

    As a government employee, partially sponsored by my employer to attend this conference, I also have a responsibility to ensure that my communications are retained as part of my work records. This will probably mean me taking screen dumps of these comments and my proposal, and some of the general information about the conference. But it won’t become an archive, as such.

    Or I could leave it to fate.

  • wragge says:

    You’ve reminded me to point out that there’s a THATCamp twitter archive.

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