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Twitter as a First Draft of the Present – and the Challenges of Preserving It for the Future


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Paper presented by Axel Bruns and Katrin Weller at the Web Science 2016 conference in Hannover, Germany, 23-25 May 2016.

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Twitter as a First Draft of the Present – and the Challenges of Preserving It for the Future

  1. 1. TWITTER AS A FIRST DRAFT OF THE PRESENT – AND THE CHALLENGES OF PRESERVING IT FOR THE FUTURE Prof. Axel Bruns Dr. Katrin Weller Digital Media Research Centre Computational Social Science Queensland University of Technology GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences Brisbane, Australia Köln, Germany @snurb_dot_info @kwelle
  2. 2. HISTORY IS WRITTEN… • …by the winners • …with the records that survive • What will survive of our time? – Print journalism? – Audiovisual materials? – Software? – The Web?  Various Web archiving projects • But what about social media?
  4. 4. IS TWITTER HISTORY? • What is Twitter? – Journalism: “a first rough draft of history” (as journalists see it) – Twitter: real-time, real-life observations by a diverse, global userbase – Twitter: tweets, but also images, video, links to external content  Twitter is a first draft of the present • But – significant fears for long-term preservation: – Concerns over Twitter, Inc.’s commercial sustainability – Data access commercialised and unaffordable at scale – Account and content deletions threaten completeness – Embedded third-party URLs, images, audio, video may disappear  We must get serious about preserving Twitter (and other social media)
  6. 6. WHAT IS LOST? • Deleted tweets • Audiovisual contents in tweets: videos, images • URLs and their contents • Context information: user names, meaning of hashtags • Context: Interfaces, look & feel
  7. 7. WHERE TO FROM HERE? • Archiving Twitter: – Alternative options in addition to LoC are needed – Archiving without Twitter, Inc.’s support feasible only for smaller subsets • e.g. TrISMA project, Australian Research Council / National Library of Australia – Full archive would require gaining/buying access to Twitter firehose: very costly • Archiving Twitter, fully: – Need to capture more than just tweets alone – Content of shared URLs, embedded images, audio, video – Background information on accounts, underlying structure of follower networks – Twitter user experience: interface design, content presentation, etc.  All of this is increasingly urgent, as content is already disappearing…
  8. 8. @snurb_dot_info @kwelle Full paper: This research is funded by the Australian Research Council through Future Fellowship and LIEF grants FT130100703 and LE140100148. Part of this work was conducted as part of a Digital Studies Fellowship at the Library of Congress’s John W. Kluge Center.