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Tweeting into perpetuity

Attention all Twitterers. Every tweet — all 50 million per day — are being captured and saved by the Library of Congress. It’s not hanging onto these microblogs of 140-characters or less for a little while. No, the multitude of mishmash that creates our global, verbal snapshot is being saved forever. Your grandkids will be able to hunt down your tweets to your sweeties.

When I heard the news last week I laughed out loud, and not with an LOL either. It was audible. I wondered why anyone would want to sift through the terabytes of data generated by the Twitteratti. Then I heard a great piece on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday that helped me put this into perspective. Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen interviewed Andy Carvin, senior strategist for NPR’s social media desk, about the decision.

Carvin said: "Twitter in many ways has become the pulse of what’s going on online right now. Because it’s a real-time conversation that anyone can chime into at any given point, it’s 24-7.
"And so when something happens somewhere in the world you’re almost guaranteed that people will be talking about it or even witnessing it as it happens, whether it’s protests and revolution in Kyrgyzstan to people talking about the ham sandwich they just ate and everything in between."

Bingo! It’s akin to the very popular "A Day in the Life" photo books of the late 1980s. I have a handful of them, including "A Day in the Life of America" and "A Day in the Life of the Soviet Union." I even participated in a local rendition while working as a photographer in Grand Junction, Colo. Photos in the publications were all shot in a 24-hour period with the intention of showing the reader a slice of the typical activities that make up a particular geographic region.

The Twitter archive is another way to look at what makes our society tick, albeit on a grander scale, using words instead of images. I get it.

Carvin summed it up nicely: "Twitter captures everything. And you’re going to get a sampling of what life was like at its most mundane and banal and at its most tense and exciting and disturbing because it really is just a reflection of what’s going on at any given moment.

"And so it makes research rather onerous in some ways but at the same time, historians and archaeologists are always often looking for the mundane because you can’t always tell what everyday people were doing. Twitter, not only does it operate 24-7, it has tens of millions of people participating in it. And so suddenly it democratizes the snapshotting of the world in a way that’s never been done before. It’s the famous, it’s the infamous that get captured for posterity and now we’re going to have a little bit of everything."

Hear the interview and read the transcript at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126086325

Follow me on Twitter: @algibes

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