Social Media and Historians

Curated by Stefania Scagliola, Jordan Ricker and Emmanuelle Decker

Lesson on how to deal with the abudance of digital born data, with regard to research, reaching out to audiences,teaching and preservation strategies, with social media as a case study.

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about the lesson S


This lesson discusses the relationship between social media and the practice of academic historians from the perspective of source criticism, public outreach and preservation. It offers a short clip, a quiz and a series of assignments that deal with various perspectives on the phenomenon of social media: their historical and pedagogical value, their bias and bad reputation, the variety of platforms across the world, the pioneers and their business model. A more in depth analysis is offered of Twitter, a microblogging service that can be accessed with a mobile application and is very much used in journalism and advertising.

What is the objective of this lesson?

How is the content organized?

watch this animation S

Social media and historians, why bother?

S Social media and historians; why bother?

This animation discusses the relevance and historical value of social media for the historical community.

complete these assignments M

M Assignments (2)

1 out of 2 — When does a Tweet or Youtube clip become ‘historical’?

Amongst historians, it is argued that in order to consider an event “mature” enough for historical inquiry, there should be distance in time and access to classified documents. This idea of a necessary “waiting period” has long determined the “historicity” of a given event or topic. The advent of the web and social media—with direct access to an abundance of data, especially in the realm of the private life—seems to have challenged the idea of what can be considered as “historical”. In this assignment, you are going to be confronted with different opinions on the role of social media in history and whether they can be considered “historical sources”.

social media interactivity interactivity

Image credits: Image 1: Linaria Comunicación via Giphy - ( Image 2: INTO ACTION via Giphy - Image 3: Flamingo Services via Giphy -

20 Min

1.a What can be considered “historically relevant” social media expressions?

? Min

1.b Arguments put forward by historians

Reading/viewing suggestions

2 out of 2 — Social media in historical perspective

When looking at social media from a historian’s perspective, it is important to remember that opinions differ between experts on how to even define “social media” as well as whether or not this form of communication existed in the pre-internet era. Much of these debates hinge on whether the technical infrastructure as such is the innovative element, or what people do with the technical infrastructure when it becomes available. From the perspective of a historian, the term “social media” is problematic, as media have a social function by definition. Even within the scope of the digital era, the term ‘social’ poses problems, as it can confusingly also refer to the pioneering sharing platforms that evolved in the early 2000s, such as MySpace and Friendster. At the time, they were coined Social Networking Sites. With the introduction of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, arguably geared towards sharing content more than creating networks, the broader term “social media” gained traction. In this assignment, you are going to explore the historical continuities and discontinuities of the phenomenon of social media.

2.a When did it all start?| 20 Min