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Amazing times, social media

I work with web archiving full-time so you think that I’d be used to the web by now – but sometimes it can still strike me as strange.  These have been amazing times in recent months, with revolutions and uprisings to some degree fostered by social media.  I’m grateful that some of our curators have been documenting the web presence of a wide range of Middle-Eastern political movements for some years now, using both WAS ( and Archive-It.  These resources should be of increasing value to people seeking to understand how at least two revolutions came about.

That said, so much of the change underway is happening outside of these organizations, at an individual level, and is so diffuse and fast-paced… it’s really quite stunning.   How do you create an archival record of these social movements?   Not so long ago some people were scratching their heads, wondering what on earth the Library of Congress is going to do with a Twitter Archive.  But the seeds of recent uprisings may very well be found there as much as they’re found in more carefully curated archives.

The incident today that reminded me how strange this can get is the Ian’s Pizza trend.  Just one of those things that flashes up on the web, involving people from all over the globe in an otherwise very local activity.  In support of the Wisconsin labor protests, people from far and wide have been ordering pizzas to be delivered to the protestors.  Suddenly this small business is inundated with delivery orders; they’re keeping a running tally of nations/states on a chalkboard, then posting photos to Facebook (  No amount of expertise in labor history is going to tell you that one fairly active source for international opinion is going to be the Facebook page for a pizzeria.   That impossible-to-predict quality is very cool, and it’s exasperating.

Media/technologies involved in creating this object:
telephone, Twitter, internet, chalk, chalkboard, digital camera, Facebook, and pizza.