Always Already Social

Social Media in Archives

Ed Summers


slides ➜

I. Ferguson, MO

II. Documenting the Now

III. #1o

IV. Challenges


Ferguson, MO

Michael Brown Memorial by Scott Olson
"hands up" by Jamelle Bouie
swat team, fully assembled by Jamelle Bouie
Antonio French - Vine
% twarc search ferguson > tweets.json

13,480,00 tweets

August 10, 2014 - August 27, 2014

Not just 140 280 characters:

  • time
  • hashtags
  • geo coordinates
  • places
  • images
  • video
  • urls
  • retweet
  • reply
  • user
  • profile


JavaScript Object Notation

BlackLivesMatter Twitter Collection


Documenting the Now

Critical Race Theory techniques of evidential rectifying could be useful to archival discourse in terms of broadening notions of what constitutes a record, the role of human subjects documented as co-creators of the record, and assumptions about archives and archivists as neutral third parties in the preservation and use of the record and other forms of historical evidence.

Anthony Dunbar (2006)
Documenting the Now Advisory Board (2016)
  1. Build tools that help archivists assemble archival collections using social media.
  2. Develop a community of practice around the ethics of archiving social media.
Ferguson, 2017
Alison Knezevich (2016)
Documenting the Now Catalog
Hydrator App
% twarc filter ferguson > tweets.json
% twarc hydrate ids.csv > tweets.json



Internet censorship in the Catalan referendum by Matthias Brugger
Referendum Medialogs by Franc González

8,410,431 tweets

September 19 - October 5, 2017

  • #CatalanReferendum
  • #CatalonianReferendum
  • #Catalonia
  • #1oct
  • #1o
  • #votarem

Top three videos hosted in:

#1 (9,619)

#2 (5,144)

#3 (1,387)

#1 (204)

#2 (194)

#3 (60)

#1 (49,311)

#2 (34,298)

#3 (31,791)
Analyzed first 1 million tweets using youtube-dl:

  • 4,012 unique videos
  • 45 video providers
  • 772,602 seconds
  • 214 hours



Garbage Fire in The 818 by Mykill Ray
An archival judgement made some time after the documents' creation ought to consider contemporary opinion important and significant. The documentary heritage should be formed according to an archival conception, historically assessed, which reflects the consciousness of the particular period for which the archives is responsible and from which the source material to be appraised is taken.

Hans Booms (1972)
Archives need appraisal tools & practices for the web.
Twitter Terms of Service, 2019

Consent is broken on the Web

  • Individuals are not able to read all the policies they are exposed to every day.
  • Policies are very difficult to write clearly and completely so that people can understand them.
  • Even if people can read the policies, it is very difficult (if not impossible ) to predict all the ways your data could be used.

Daniel Solove (2013)

We must build consentful & participatory archives for social media. Can ideas from Human Data Interaction help? (Hutton & Henderson, 2017)

  • Legibility: make content creators aware of our collecting.
  • Agency: allow them to participate in and benefit from our collecting.
  • Negotiability: recognize that dataflows & context change over time.

(Greg Rolan et al.'s work on models for participatory archives are relevant here.)
Social Humans by Alexandra Dolan-Mesal