A Sea of History: Twitter at the Library of Congress

Kaitlin Costello, Jason Priem, Laura Campbell, Beth Dulabahn
2010 7th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects   unpublished
As a rich, personal source of data on a uniquely large and diverse set of users, Twitter merits long-term preservation-as the Library of Congress recognized in announcing the creation of a Twitter archive. We conducted 28 semi-structured interviews and used conventional qualitative content analysis to explore the attitudes and expectations that one subgroup of users-scholars-had towards having their tweets archived, and who they thought could be responsible for such an archive. Our participants
more » ... e. Our participants questioned the utility of a comprehensive archive and were concerned by the possibility of their institutional employers archiving their tweets. Since the expectations of content creators can help to inform archival policy and practice, this research is valuable to the custodians of a Twitter archive, and may also be applied to other social media archives. Problem Statement Twitter is a fast-growing web service which allows people to post messages, or "tweets," of 140 characters or fewer online. Twitter is a rich, personal source of data on a set of users that is uniquely large (145 million registered users), diverse, and increasingly international (60% from outside the United States). 1 As such, some or all of these users" tweets may merit long-term preservation. Certainly, in recent months, there has been much scholarly and popular discussion of such preservation. 2 This conversation has been largely spurred by the Library of Congress" (LoC) announcement of a plan to establish a Twitter archive, although many of the details of what is meant by "archive" remain unclear. They have explained that the archive will not contain private tweets, will be long-term, and will only be accessible in its entirety to researchers upon request, although special collections may be publicly displayed. 3