Facebook as a Multimodal Diary for Future Biographers

Recently, Facebook celebrated 10 years online by creating the “A Look Back” feature.  This specialized web page pulls images, posts, status updates, relationship changes, and a number of other data types from your public profile, and compiles them into a cute video, all with a catchy tune and cued transitions.  Anyone can access and their share their videos, which cover all of their time on Facebook.

Facebook is not the first developer to create tools allowing people to sort through their social media data.  Applications such as My Year in Status can also pull together the massive amounts of data stored on your Facebook profile.  Websites such as Storify allow you to go one step further, uniting content from multiple social media outlets into a single “story.”  All of these sites demonstrate our interest in reviewing our own recent history, as well as the history of those around us.  These tools are popular not only with people, but also with corporations and organizations.  The White House even has a Storify story for the Affordable Care Act, which you can find here.

Facebook’s “A Look Back” feature is making waving across the huge social media site. Image: pcmag.com

My curiosity leads me to wonder how these tools and applications will become helpful to future researchers, biographers, and genealogists, who will have access to an almost limitless pool of information and metadata about a large cross-section of the population.  Any kind of data reviewing tool could possibly be developed into a better, more efficient form of sorting through social media information, and the software that ultimately can organize, sort, and (most importantly) preserve this information will be extremely successful.

As people enjoy the benefits of cute and playful applications combining huge aggregates of data, information specialists and digital archivists should be looking towards the future task of preserving and interpreting the immense banks of metadata recorded through the digital time-capsules that are social media sites.

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