Anthony Hoffmann on the Twitter-Library of Congress Deal: Privacy, Representation, Culture, Research Ethics

Anthony Hoffmann, a UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies PhD student, has posted an excellent analysis of the Twitter-Library of Congress deal, in 4 parts, at his blog:

  • Part I: Intro and Privacy Roundup: Hoffmann discusses how the LoC acquisition of the public Twitter archive “directly confronts a number of unresolved (and hotly contested) practical and conceptual issues concerning privacy today”.
  • Part II: Digital Divides and the Cultural Record: Hoffmann critiques the oft-repeated rhetoric that the Twitter archive represents the collective thoughts and utterances of “ordinary people”, arguing that “rather than a true democratization of the cultural record, we are simply expanding it to include not only elite content producers with access to the traditional information gatekeepers, but new content producers literate and savvy enough to take advantage of new informational gateways.”
  • Part III: Intercultural Information Ethics and Digital Classification: Hoffmann builds on Part II, recognizing that while Twitter is clearly not representative of “ordinary people,” it is, in fact, ethnically diverse. This diversity of users — and usage — will force the LoC to address broad intercultural questions when building tools for accessing the archive. In Hoffmann’s words: “different groups use Twitter for different reasons and in different ways. In turn, it is important that we ask how these differences will be represented in the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive.”
  • Part IV: Internet Research Ethics: Finally, Hoffmann situates these concerns within the lens of Internet research ethics, posing important questions such as “How do we conduct meaningful research in the archive and still respect the rights and privacy of individual Twitterers who did not necessarily consent to being researched?” and “How do we make sense of this data in a way that is meaningful anywhere outside the context of Twitter itself?” and “How will we handle the issue of intercultural information ethics and representation when we conduct research on this archive?”

I encourage you to read the complete set of reflections.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s