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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Lomax’

So the LoC will archive all public Tweets, and the readers are mixed in responses. There are those who question the value for posterity, those who regard the cost, those who think it’s a great idea, and those who got it wrong about public and private and are affronted. I wonder if similar outcries would have come if, in this era of instant communication, the LoC announced it planned to archive a donation of all music ever recorded and music never commercially recorded…Say didn’t they do that? (Well, okay, Alan Lomax’s collection may not have been tax dollars funded, I’m not sure and no time at midnight to search.) Aren’t they still collecting all sorts of stuff that has to do with humankind? Take a look at the LoC’s “Online Collections” for a start. Certainly looks like a glorious mix of the profound and prolific to me, and all representative of what strange and wonderful creatures we are.

But back to privacy and public status and whether this is worthwhile. First, I can’t imagine people not realizing when they sign up for Twitter that they’re essentially broadcasting. It’s sort of all about “stream of conscious” commentary, isn’t it? Is there anyone out there who would actually use Twitter to reveal personal details to friends, as if the world couldn’t listen in? Oh. Yes. I guess the entertainment industry, but as Angelina Jolie pointed out (or so Danah Boyd told us), she uses the social media info as a smokescreen.

Now if LoC were archiving Facebook, that would be very different and a possible infringement on privacy because it was started as a “closed community” really. TONS of people weren’t aware of how much they were revealing in a public forum until the world got wiser to settings and social media in general. (I think the British Library is doing some collection, project or exhibit with Facebook. Again, it’s too late to sleuth, so I’ll gt back to this in another post.)

Second, the examples of “First Twitter” “Election Result”  etc. in Matt Raymond’s blog post, “How Tweet it Is!” have historical relevance. The rest? Maybe. I can’t say it bothers me to think tax dollars are going for this, because I can think of a LOT of other funding that is neither creative or beneficial for the country that I’d want to see cut first. And did tax dollars get used to acquire the archive, or was all this stuff handed over by Homeland Security? Just speculating. Nope, it was Twitter itself that handed over.

In any case, Twitter may have a place in an ethnographic research project of the future. My greatest skepticism is whether ANYONE a few centuries or millennia from now will be able to make heads or tails of WHAT those tweety bleeps are referring to! Will the archive put EACH tweet in context to some aspect of daily life, historical event etc? Now THAT will cost tax dollars, but provide some jobs for puzzle freaks!

Remember cuneiform? When they finally deciphered that language, it turned out to be predominantly commercial in application. Not the Hammurabi Code stuff (although that’s Akkadian, isn’t it?) but the daily market records of who bought X number of oil flasks, who gave what to the temple etc. Ancient tweets, pulverized by the locals and preserved reverently by archaeologists.

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