Social Media and Social Activism

Posted on by

One significant area of records created at BAM are web-based records (our website, twitter(s), instagram, youtube channel, soundcloud, livestream channel and blog). Comprehensive preservation planning for archival capture of these platforms falls outside the scope of my NDSR project at BAM; however, I’ve been trying to do some research to provide the Archive with a general temperature check on current practices in the field.

The other week I went to Vancouver to go to the Association of Canadian Archivists at University of British Columbia’s student-organized 8th Annual International Seminar and Symposium: Preserving Liquid Communications. The conference was extremely interesting and diverse with speakers from Canada, the US, and China discussing issues both theoretical and practical. A common thread throughout the various presentations was the power of inclusivity throughout social media. Social media gives people who might not traditionally hold power, a public voice. As Kate Theimer of ArchivesNext stated in her talk, Gaps in the Past and Gaps in the Future: Archival Silences and Social Media: “Easy access to technology has given people across the world many more opportunities to document themselves, and to share that information with others, than ever before. Social media, or liquid communication, gives people a platform to share information about everyday events, and ones of historic importance as well, and consequently the question of how to best preserve those records has been an issue of archival concern for some time….The challenge is a critical one. If we do not solve it, our generation will leave behind a new kind of archival silence, one based on technology, not social status.”

Other speakers, such as Erin O’Meara of the Gates Archive furthered this point by giving examples of inclusivity through social media in social justice movements such as #blacklivesmatter, #Ferguson, and #FreddieGray. Social media, O’Meara explained, enables the traditional gaze of photographs to be reappropriated. Instead of the primary representation of social/political movements coming from outsiders looking in, social media is a platform where activists can publicly document themselves.

Other speakers such as Greg Bak of University of Manitoba spoke about social media as an ecosystem and Amelia Acker of University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences spoke about social media as being not just born-digital but born-networked. The concept of social media as an ecosystem or a network, to me, furthered stressed the democratization of conversations in social media’s ability to be a platform for a diverse range of voices.

Some tools to archive social media that were discussed in this conference were: Archive Social, Social Feed Manager, Exactly, Twarc, Video Grabber, Archive-It, Webrecorder, and NCSU Social Media Archives Toolkit.

I’d like to take this opportunity to plug another project that I’ve been working on. Over the past several months I’ve been participating in this fellowship out of Columbia University:  Beyond the Bars Fellowship. Through this fellowship, we are working towards learning about and actively addressing issues related to mass incarceration. Not specifically archives/library focused, but in my opinion, in the United States, mass incarceration is one of the largest, most widespread, critical issues of our time (and has been for a long time). With one in every 15 black males 18 years or older incarcerated, we each should have a responsibility to get involved. Social media becomes a tool for building community, sharing information, and self educating.

This upcoming weekend, March 4-6 at Columbia University, there will be a free conference, Beyond the Bars: Connecting the Struggles. Angela Davis will be giving the keynote address on Friday. Here is our website for more information!

One thought on “Social Media and Social Activism

Comments are closed.