Session 5: Studies in Social Media

Moderator: Anthony Cocciolo (Pratt Institute)
@Archivist_Community: Social Network Analysis and Archivists on Twitter / Edward Benoit III (Louisiana State University) and Jennifer Stevenson (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee)

As a profession, archivists rely heavily on professional support and networks since many work as lone arrangers. The development of national, regional, and local organizations such as the Society of American Archivist, the Midwest Archives Conference, and the Louisiana Archive and Manuscripts Association, filled the profession’s needs for decades. As technologies developed, these organizations leveraged them for better communication and networking among archivists with the introduction of email listservs, websites, and discussion forums. Despite the technological platform, archivists continue relying on professional networking, and are increasingly moving toward independent platforms, such as Twitter, to fulfill their needs.

Social networks allow individuals to connect with individuals and groups with whom they share common interests either personally or professionally. Unlike previous studies focused on archival repositories, this study explores and analyzes the Twitter network of individual archivists. Applying social network and content analysis, the study highlights the clustering trends including, but not limited to, geographic, institutional, organizational, and topical. The purpose is to better understand how archivists communicate. Businesses conduct similar studies to learn information about their consumers. For archivists, understanding the communication paths and content will provide a means to awareness of the profession and interest in content.

This study will measure the effects of Twitter usage among archivists in order to begin to identify and evaluate social media for future use for the archive community. The study will analyze the statistics to provide quantitative evidence of what is going on “behind the scenes,” and the correlation to the content of the tweets and the number of responses.

The sample includes archivists who use Twitter from around the world, but is limited to those who tweet in English. The sample is constructed following a modified snowball technique beginning with 5 archivists with over 1,000 followers. The social network will continue building through collecting data on the initial 5 archivists’ followers and who the initial group follows. The process continues for a minimum of 3 levels or generations of followers (the follower of the follower of one of the initial group). The sample excludes any user who cannot be verified as an archivist through analysis of their profile description, or comparison with organizational directories (such as SAA), but includes archival graduate students and academics (each of which represents further delineations of the sample population).

Using social network analysis (SNA), a database will be constructed to build the social network, nodes, ties, identify the relationships, create the measurements for the various weights which will connect a number of different ties. UCINET software will be used to conduct the social network analysis. The consideration of various weights and connections to a number of ties will provide an insight into how the archival community uses Twitter.

(In)visible Colleges: Discourses from the Digital Humanities Blogosphere / Matt Burton (University of Pittsburgh)

The digital humanities as a field, discipline, and community of practice, use many novel modalities of informal communication. This paper reports upon a large scale analysis of digital humanities blogs, looking at their content and their infrastructural dynamics as scholarly communication. Digital humanities scholars use blogs to discuss the essential nature of the discipline, specific technological and methodological issues, how to manage a classroom, research at conferences, and even their favorite recipes. This discursive space constitutes an *(in)visible college* in the digital humanities.

(In)visible colleges are networks of scholarly communication simultaneously visible and invisible depending upon the vantage point. From the perspective of *formal* scholarly communication, such as evaluation for hiring, tenure, and promotion, blogs are generally an invisible form of academic writing. From the perspective of *informal* scholarly communication, such as hallway conversations, conference gossip, and email, blogs are highly visible. This (in)visible quality emerges from the intersection of technical properties and social factors.

The *open web* is a particular sociotechnical assemblage with the following technical properties: *open standards*, *open access*, and *open publishing*. Open standards are the non-propriety and publicly documented technical specifications that allow systems to share data and information. Open access means web content is retrievable by anyone, anywhere without technical restrictions or paywalls (note: this does not imply open licensing). Open publishing means there are no barriers to putting content on the web, meaning there is no editorial control or peer review (note: this does not mean all websites are open, just the platform as a whole). These technical properties set conditions of possibility for new modalities of scholarly discourse (and the study of that discourse).

The technical properties of the open web afford new modes of scholarly communication, but do not determine them. Scholarly communities have social and cultural factors imbricated in a mutually constitutive relationship with the technologies by which they interact. The digital humanities community has embraced the open web, especially blogs, as a platform for communication. Digital humanists blog at a pace and scale unprecedented in the humanities, and possibly in the academy as a whole. This *visibility at scale* challenges the traditional methodologies we use to study infrastructure and scholarly communication.

This paper seeks to answer the questions: What are digital humanities scholars writing about on their blogs? What are the methodological dynamics and tensions in generating data from the open web? I present a topic model of nearly 40 thousand posts by digital humanities bloggers, explore how the results inform new models of informal scholarly communication, and discuss implications of web archives of the (in)visible scholarly record.

From Transaction to Interaction: The Shifting Nature of Government Recordkeeping in an Age of Social Media / Christopher Colwell

Social media applications are increasingly being used by government agencies to transact official business with their various communities. In an Australian Government context these sites may be records. Records that exist outside the boundaries of the organisation to which they relate, and which created them, unless they are somehow at a later date captured into organisational systems, but are still subject to relevant legislative processes such as Freedom of Information and recordkeeping obligations (Hesling 2014).

While existing outside the organisation which has created them, these records enable cooperation and interaction with the communities with which the organisation needs to communicate. However, these interactions do not necessarily represent a clear or transparent business transaction. By its very nature social media is reconfiguring our notions of transparency and accountability (Scott and Orlikowski 2012).

This paper draws on some initial themes from my own research to explore how organisational processes and the proprietary and socially mediated nature of social media may affect our notions of records, transactions, accountability and transparency in relation to government recordkeeping in an age of social media.

Works Cited:

Hesling, Elisa. 2014. “Records, social media and the right to access: the social media conundrum.” Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia National Conference, Adelaide, S.A., 8 September 2014.

Scott, Susan V, and Wanda J Orlikowski. 2012. “Reconfiguring relations of accountability: Materialization of social media in the travel sector.” Accounting, organizations and society 37 (1): 26-40.