The New Historical Record: 140 Characters At A Timeadmin | Blog,Twitter | Sunday April 25 2010
There are so many little things to figure out about social media that it’s often easier not to even think about the big things–especially the really BIG THINGS, like the recent acquisition of the entire Twitter library of tweets by the Library of Congress.
This estimable archives of our nation has gone and done a big thing by collecting a slew of little things in one swoop. Put out some early tweets you wouldn’t want your mother to read? Well, now you’ve got to worry about your kids, grandkids and your fifth-great-granddaughter to worry about.
We’re all watching and participating in this thing from the ground up, but how will historians of the future (an interesting phrase in and of itself) look back at this mass of tweets, posts, comments and other online content, detritus or golden verse may it be?
Easy guesses include these future chroniclers of the past (can’t help myself) finding intense value in the daily thoughts of the masses and the power players. How long will it take history to find light sprayed onto an event from 5-10-25-50 years ago thanks to the unearthing of an as yet undiscovered tweet? Unlike the intermittent written record of the past we use to understand our history today, this database we’re building today will be infinitely search-able by geographic location, socio-economic factors and other demographic info.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this medium to our future understanding of the past, present and humanity’s of-the-moment, off-the-cuff remarks. This thing could go all kinds of ways; here are a few time-shifting instances to consider the implications of social media on human events and our own mortal coil:
(Just Before) Great/Tragic Moments in Military History:
1. George Washington the night before routing the British at Trenton, N.J.: “Thinking we’ll cross the #Delaware River tonight; weather’s rough, but sounds like the Hessians are really partying.”
2. U.S. Army Soldier, June 5, 1944: “Can we just get across the damn Channel, please, and have at the Germans? Wait, it’s on; see you in Normandy!”
3. General Westmoreland, 1965: “We should be in Saigon by end of summer, I’m thinking.”
4. George Armstrong Customer, U.S. 7th Cavalry: “Think we’ll take a jaunt down toward Little Bigfoot; hear the hot springs are really boiling this time of year.”
Historic Social Media Moments (that could have been):
1. @RaSunGod Pharoah Ramses on internal work communications Twitter feed: “Builders, laborers, support tweeps…thank all of you for my shiny new pyramid. Next, thinking we denude our native land of last resources and enter period of decline.”
2. @MarkTwain Mark Twain, young riverboat captain, as he steamed the Mississippi River: “Saw a young white boy and a black man on a raft today; what if that boy got to core of what’s wrong with slavery?”
3. @monotheistatlarge Moses after parting Red Sea: “Thanks to #namewedarenotspeak for coming through big time at yesterday’s #tweetup. It was biblical.”
4. @appletothenoggin Isaac Newton on gravity: “Heading out into the countryside for my nap; will pick up my re-do of scientific method afterward. Feeling slacker-ish.”
New Media Tweets That Should Have Been:
1. @BillGates: “Finishing up personal computer prototypes on my sweet new Mac; thinking people need more mistake-prone computing alternative.”
2. @BizStone: “Going to create a micro-blogging service where I give people a limited amount of space to get a message out, with a link if they want, which will let every person become a publisher, create a personal brand and really make clear what is on their mind at that very second AND I’ll cap it at 500-600 characters, I think.”
3. @aplusk: “Just put out first tweet; seems like a HUGE waste of time…just like my pranks-on-celebs show. Going on to new movie instead.”
Historic Twitter Usernames We’d Have Followed:
- @TheLizardKing (Jim Morrisson, The Doors)