Thursday, April 15, 2010

Twitter and the Library of Congress

Of all the historical sites I visited on my last trip to D.C., my favorite, my kids' favorite, and the one I was most impressed with, was the Library of Congress. To consider the monumentally important documents which are housed there (their motto: "the universal body of human knowledge") boggles the mind and inspires the heart.

Which is why it's so disappointing to see that "tweets" from Twitter are now going to be housed right alongside the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation for all of eternity.

Twitter as History: Library of Congress Will Save Tweets:

Are you on Twitter? That tweet you sent this morning about what your cat ate for breakfast is now part of history. The Library of Congress announced today—first via its Twitter feed—that it will archive all public tweets posted since Twitter went live in March 2006.

The library will archive the collected works of Twitter, the blogging service, whose users currently send a daily flood of 55 million messages, all that contain 140 or fewer characters.

Academic researchers seem pleased as well. For hundreds of years, they say, the historical record has tended to be somewhat elitist because of its selectivity. In books, magazines and newspapers, they say, it is the prominent and the infamous who are written about most frequently.
Er, so by archiving the navel-gazing tweets of "ordinary" Americans, and their daily obsessions with food or bowel movements or American Idol contestants, we are going to expand the "universal body of human knowledge"?

Look, I'm on Twitter and I quite enjoy the silliness of it all, but archiving tweets is like archiving abbreviations from the dictionary. Without the entire definition or context, discerning what people are saying in 140 characters or less (much less why we should care) hardly strikes me as Federalist Papers-like in importance.

What they should be archiving is blogs, such as this one. This blog The Power-Elite should be available for viewing in the Library of Congress, right alongside the Magna Carta.

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