[I wrote this post several days ago, but didn’t get round to publishing it. Apologies if everyone is bored of the whole issue by now!]
With the recent (and much discussed!) news that the Library of Congress had acquired the Twitter archives, I have one question (well, several actually, but we’ll stick with this one for now): will this change the way you tweet?
Tweets are ephemera. Now, ephemera is considered an extremely valuable historical/social research tool, but one of the prerequisites of ephemera is that it is not intended for preservation. What happens now when it is?
Nothing. Probably. We’ll forget about it. The way we forget about cctv and those guys in the golf balls on the Yorkshire moors who read all our emails.
But – for the first few days, at least – will you try to add a little extra insight, a little extra pizzazz for the sake of future readers? Will you take this as your chance to influence how history remembers you? To be the guy who had that really funny and insightful tweet about the leaders debate or the Iceland volcano? To be quoted in a future thesis or book?
Do the Twitter archives hold potential future value for researchers? Will tweets have a chance at immortality? Of course. But the thing about future researchers – as everyone who has had to think about collection/acquisition policies will know – is that we have no idea what they will find valuable. So while you’re trying to wow posterity with your political acumen and elegant turn of phrase, it might be the person who tweets what they have for their lunch every day who ends up as the cornerstone of ‘Sandwiches as an economic force: an exploration of working lunch habits in the early 21st century’.
Being remembered by history is still a lottery, but Twitter and the LoC may just have given you a few free tickets…