My Friday blog post on Social Media and Community Documentation focused on capturing information provided on social media sites that reflect a sense of community. The idea of "community" can apply to people with similar interests, online friends, and other connections. These connections are often reflected in "traditional" archives collections when we focus on collecting the papers of individuals that subscribe to theories of provenance -- keeping papers created by a particular person or body together. Such collections naturally show connections between record creators. I noted in my recent blog post that, " Archivists need to take notice of the social networks individuals are forming and how they will change the collections we create." These networks reflect a new kind of provenance that will naturally reflect connections similar to our intensely paper based special collections and archives.
Today I would like to focus on a particular community - that of a geographic locale. The papers of local historical societies and other similar local institutions focus on capturing a local identity. This blog post poses more questions related to online communities than answers to prompt local archivists to think about these issues. In my observation, with increased use of the Internet by residents, local identity does not break down as outside influences more easily flow into places that were seemingly less influenced by the world beyond small geographic boundaries. Online environments can, and many do, reflect a local geographic community and sense of place. How can we capture this digital identity and does it differ significantly from the "real" world? What changes does a local archivist see in her community's sense of place when studying the digital documentation of a region? First, using the locale as a starting point for capturing digital data how do we collect what is online to reflect our local community? Should we even try to do this?
Last week, Inside Higher Ed posted an article titled, "Archiving the Web for Scholars." The article discussed a number of interesting projects related to developing collections of online resources for documenting society. Especially noteworthy for this discussion is the American University in Cairo project to document the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, "which contains blogs, Twitter feeds, photos, videos, and online news coverage of the political tumult that engulfed the Egyptian capital this spring." The site does a remarkable job of capturing an event, reflecting a people, and showing how an online medium and outsiders influenced a truly community specific event (albeit a large community with international attention.)