A DECADE OF ‘SOCIAL MEDIA’
AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Methodological Challenges of
Historicising the Proprietary Web

JEAN BU...
Narratives of enclosure
Narratives of enclosure
Dynamics of change

"Historical studies are often the result of
a fundamental wonderment: Why was
there something and not ...
Dynamics of change

What changes, and how?
•materialist
•co-evolutionary
•conjunctural
social media: the platform paradigm

social media platforms
as new media
institutions
•coordinating function
•logics (van ...
the stuff of platforms

•Interface design,

aesthetics, affordances
•User practices,
behaviours, norms
•Software, algorith...
methodological challenges

differences
between platforms
methodological challenges

change over time
Photo:Yahoo! News
Dynamics of Change

What changes, and how?
Dynamics of Change

And how would we know?
the stuff of social media histories

•Interface design,

aesthetics, affordances
•User practices,
behaviours, norms
•Softw...
Beyond the archive

•oral histories (users, third party developers,

employees)
•self-memorialisations e.g. platform
birth...
Twitter Over Time project (with Nancy Baym)
Twitter Over Time project (with Nancy Baym)

•interviews
•wayback machine
•wikipedia (+ talk pages +
edit history)
•early ...
Challenges
• ‘Web history’ in general: very recent/micro changes and

long-range macro changes easier to track than medium...
References
Ankerson, Megan Sapnar (2012). Writing web histories
with an eye on the analog past. New Media & Society
14(3),...
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web
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A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web

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Paper presented at the Internet Histories preconference at the Association of Internet Researchers conference, Denver October 2013

Published in: Education, Technology, Business
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A Decade of 'Social Media' and What to Do About It: Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web

  1. 1. A DECADE OF ‘SOCIAL MEDIA’ AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT Methodological Challenges of Historicising the Proprietary Web JEAN BURGESS QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY @JEANBURGESS
  2. 2. Narratives of enclosure
  3. 3. Narratives of enclosure
  4. 4. Dynamics of change "Historical studies are often the result of a fundamental wonderment: Why was there something and not just nothing? Why was there not something else? And why did it change? In other words, a genuine part of  historical studies is often answering the question: What forces made things happen?" (Brügger, 31)
  5. 5. Dynamics of change What changes, and how?
  6. 6. •materialist •co-evolutionary •conjunctural
  7. 7. social media: the platform paradigm social media platforms as new media institutions •coordinating function •logics (van Dijck & Poell 2013) •affordances, constraints
  8. 8. the stuff of platforms •Interface design, aesthetics, affordances •User practices, behaviours, norms •Software, algorithms, APIs •Business models, licensing, partnerships, revenue streams
  9. 9. methodological challenges differences between platforms
  10. 10. methodological challenges change over time
  11. 11. Photo:Yahoo! News
  12. 12. Dynamics of Change What changes, and how?
  13. 13. Dynamics of Change And how would we know?
  14. 14. the stuff of social media histories •Interface design, aesthetics, affordances •User practices, behaviours, norms •Software, algorithms, APIs •Business models, licensing, partnerships, revenue streams
  15. 15. Beyond the archive •oral histories (users, third party developers, employees) •self-memorialisations e.g. platform birthday celebrations (cf. Hartley, Burgess & Green, 2007) •media coverage of controversies and other events as moments of acute change •biographies of material elements - e.g. the hashtag, the like button
  16. 16. Twitter Over Time project (with Nancy Baym)
  17. 17. Twitter Over Time project (with Nancy Baym) •interviews •wayback machine •wikipedia (+ talk pages + edit history) •early tweets archive •tech blogs, news media •personal blogs, youtube
  18. 18. Challenges • ‘Web history’ in general: very recent/micro changes and long-range macro changes easier to track than mediumterm ‘meso’ changes • Proprietary social media platforms present challenges in addition to all the problems noted by Brügger (2012) • ephemerality & erasure • data access • ethics • But this commercial ephemerality is nothing new (Hartley, Burgess & Green 2008; Ankerson, 2012)
  19. 19. References Ankerson, Megan Sapnar (2012). Writing web histories with an eye on the analog past. New Media & Society 14(3), 384-400. Brügger, Niels (2012) "Web historiography and Internet Studies: Challenges and perspectives." New Media & Society 15(5): 752-764. Hartley, John, Burgess, Jean, & Green, Joshua (2007) 'Laughs and Legends,' or the Furniture That Glows? Television as History? Australian Cultural History 26: 15-36. van Dijck, J., & Poell, T. (2013). Understanding Social Media Logic. Media and Communication, 1(1), 2-14.

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