UC Riverside will be working with Washington University in St. Louis and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland in developing an application called DocNow, which will be used to help archive social media content posted during the occurrence of significant events.
The project, called “Documenting the Now: Support Scholarly Use and Preservation of Social Media Content,” has received a $517,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This foundation awards grants to a wide range of program areas, including higher education and scholarship in humanities, arts and cultural heritage, diversity, scholarly communications and international higher education and strategic projects.
This application will be cloud-ready and open source, allowing for others to access it and to make changes and improvements during its production and development.
DocNow responds to the way that the public uses social media during time periods of historically important events and collects and archives digital content that can be used for those conducting research. It will be further created in a manner that allows information that may be of value for current and future research to be more easily identified.
A significant event that occurred highlighting the usefulness of social media in studies was the Aug. 19, 2014 shooting of unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. This incident led to protests within the area in the following weeks.
During this period, Twitter was used as a notable channel of communication to report succeeding events. Information produced during this time period has resulted in the creation of a data set that can be studied and analyzed by scholars. Only authenticated scholars will be able to have access to Twitter streams through this program that may contain information that could be valuable in research.
University and Political Papers Archivist Bergis Jules told UCR Today that “Community building will be vitally important as we continue to develop standards and effective practices around the collection and access to this rich content.”
This method of data collection is not the only kind of this type, but joins an increasing amount of social media datasets, such as the Stanford Large Network Dataset Collection and the Social Computing Data Repository, that are saved to be used for research purposes.
Although the data collected through DocNow will be used to assist in current and future research, scholars working on the project are preparing to produce an authoritative report concerning the ethical, copyright and access implications involved in the collection of social media content.