She’s trying to archive Black Twitter. It’s a delicate and imperfect task : NPR
Dare Kumolu, Kumolu Studios
Black Twitter has been a force since the platform began, creating a space for everything from the discussion of everyday life to help launch and spotlight movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite.
Now, one woman is looking to archive it, as the future of Twitter seems uncertain.
who is she Meredith Clark is an associate professor of communication and journalism at Northeastern University. It is launching the Black Twitter Archiving project as part of the Black Web Archiving initiative.
- Clark’s research focuses on “the intersections of race, media, and power in digital, social, and news media,” according to her university bioand spent years also working as an editor, editorial writers and columnist.
- She says the term Black Twitter has many definitions, and hers is: “A network of culturally bound communicators who are using the platform to talk about issues of concern to Black lives and in Black lives. “
What’s the big deal? Clark says that preserving Black Twitter will allow the history of the internet to be more accurate and complex. But it is not a simple task.
- Clark says it’s impossible to collect — or even distill — all of Black Twitter. So instead there will be a collection of what are called “small stories”.
- They’re “parts and pieces of what happened in this place and time, but they’re not the end all of Black Twitter,” Clark told NPR, adding that it’s a delicate balance.
- NPR’s Dara Kerr and Bobby Allyn report that since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, the company’s staff has been reduced to about 10% of what it was before, following mass layoffs and others quitting. “Stoppages have become much more common [and] The general bugginess of the system has also become the norm for many users,” they report.
Want more tech journalism? listen to the Consider This episode on how the use of social media affects the mental health of the teen.
What is Clark saying? Speaking to NPR’s Juana Summers, Clark explained why the project was important — and feels increasingly urgent.
On the power of preserving stories:
The power of that preservation is to ensure that the accurate narratives are told. There are many cases where people may have forgotten the truth of how something happened. One that stands out in my mind is that, recently, there was coverage that made reference to Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, signing legislation to remove the Confederate flag from that state’s Capitol after the -massacre of the Emanuel Nine. And I took issue with that reporting because it destroyed the work of Bree Newsome and her friends in actually raising the flagpole at the state capitol and removing that flag. And without the testimony that people could do on Twitter, that narrative could be lost. And I think that’s just one reflection of many stories that require us to have a lot of evidence to make sure it’s told correctly.
On whether the changing dynamic of Twitter itself adds more urgency to the work you’re doing:
It does. It almost adds a sense of desperation. At this point, Twitter is now reaching out to researchers who have large-scale Twitter data sets and, in some cases, asking them to delete that data. And if that data is deleted, then it leaves those of us who study this mastery for information and mastery for records.
The next phase of #ATBW is driven by an urgent call to action to establish a more equitable and accessible web archiving practice to effectively document the Black experience online. pic.twitter.com/goD6JmDAIa
— Black Web Archiving (@ArchivingTBW) March 24, 2023
So, what now?
- The project was launched this year and Clark says she is working with collaborators and inviting others to the project.
- You can read more and get involved on Clark’s website.
- “There is a version of Black Twitter that I can talk about, that I wrote about, that I study. But everyone who is part of Black Twitter has a point of view about it. And in this regard, they have something to offer,” she said .