DocNow’s first advisory board meeting will be held August 21-23, 2016 on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, in St. Louis, Missouri. The two-day event will be an opportunity to move the incredibly productive conversations we have had virtually, forward towards our goal. The meeting will bring together advisory board members, local activists, and prominent researchers. On Monday, the focus will be on substantive conversations that help us move towards our stated goal of building a tool that prioritizes ethical practices when working with social media content, especially in terms of collection and long-term preservation.
While we have limited space at the event itself, we remain committed to keeping our conversations open and responsive to the public. Monday’s conversations will be live streamed here, and we will accept questions and comments via Twitter using the #docnowcommunity hashtag. Below is a schedule outlining the discussions we have planed for the meeting.
African Americans and other marginalized people are some of the earliest adopters and heaviest users of social media platforms. From #Ferguson to #BlackLivesMatter, they use these platforms to come together around shared culture, to generate new narratives, to engage with the public without filters, and to consume content on their own terms. Social media has been a powerful tool for the further democratization of information sharing and consumption. What new opportunities do social media platforms, their users, and the records they generate, present for research on marginalized people in academic fields such as history, sociology, communications studies, journalism, etc? Panelists will draw on their own work and also offer perspectives on new opportunities in social media research in their respective fields.
Beginning in August 2014, after the killing of Michael Brown, activists in Ferguson, Missouri forced a nation to pay attention to the epidemic of police violence against African Americans. Ferguson was central to the mainstreaming of what is now commonly referred to as the Black Lives Matter movement. Michael Brown’s family and neighbors, local community organizers, and protestors in Ferguson controlled the narrative of this story from the very beginning and the story was shared with the world, in large part, via social media platforms. Without their work in the streets and their ingenuity to amplify their stories via new media, it is likely Michael Brown’s story would not have been as widely known and Ferguson would not have been the catalyst for this social justice movement. The panelists, all of whom participated in the initial Ferguson protests and organizing that lasted almost a year, and who are still engaged in local community organizing today, will discuss their work over the past two years, how that work continues, and the impact of social media in the early days of their organizing. The panel will also offer perspectives on how they see their current and past activities being remembered, and what role, if any, they see for social media presenting a record of the movement for future audiences.
The ethical issues around the collection, preservation, access, and use of social media data are complicated and numerous. These issues revolve around consent, user intent, and privacy, among others. They present added complexity for archivists, as one of our main goals is the long-term preservation of records. They also present added complexity for journalists and others who might want to collect and explore social media content for their work. Panelists will discuss how ethical considerations complicate their work to collect, provide access to, or to analyze and interpret records on social media platforms. They will also discuss possible solutions to some of the issues they face.
Social media presents tremendous opportunities for research but available tools for collection and analysis of that data come with tremendous technical, access, functionality, and cost barriers. Panelists will describe their research with social media data and how available tools for social media collection and analysis support their work, where those tools can be improved or how new tools can address their needs. Panelists will also offer perspectives on how a tool like DocNow can address some of the issues they encounter when working with social media data, and DocNow features and functionality that will be useful to them moving forward.
Social media has created new opportunities for people from traditionally underrepresented groups to directly engage with the public. This direct access and open engagement presents tremendous opportunities for archivists to better document and take part in open dialogue with communities, whose histories and narratives were not widely accessible in the past. This new access also raises issues the value of social media as valid historical records and ethics concerns including privacy of social media users. How can archivists balance those issues versus professional mandates for documentation? Panelists will discuss their work to document various communities and the challenges, conflicts and opportunities for using social media as a gateway to community documentation.
The technical solutions around web and social media archiving continue to advance. While traditional web archiving has a more established history, social media platforms are bringing new challenges to this space. Panelists will discuss the similarities and differences in these closely related, yet uniquely different, spaces and how our technical approaches to archiving them can move forward in a more collaborative and interoperable way.
Alexandra Dolan-Mescal will present the results of the user experience interviews as a prompt for discussion about DocNow user experience design/development, and ethics, archiving, and research support functionality of the tool.
This session will include a brief demonstration of a prototype application that the Documenting the Now team have been working on. This will help orient an interactive design session around potential directions for the DocNow application.
In this last session we will close the meeting with a summary of the past two days, and cover next steps and ways to stay engaged with the work.