Archives, Activism and Social Media


21 September 2017 3:00 pm to 22 September 2017 5:00 pm
G06/07, Faculty of English, Sidgwick Site; 5 West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9DP,

There are a limited number of places available. The event is free to attend but registration is essential. To book your place please click here or use the online booking link on this page.
Archives, Activism and Social Media
Building networks for effective collaboration and ethical practice


A workshop at the University of Cambridge, supported by the AHRC and organised by the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network in collaboration with Documenting the Now project.


What does it mean for the practice of archiving when so much of the communications within, and around social movements takes place in social media and on the Web? What are the different and shared challenges faced by activists, archivists and researchers wanting to use social media and born-digital material to document social movements? Can we learn from looking at the experience of archiving social movements of the past in order to decide what to preserve from the born-digital data of the present? What are the issues of representation, access and power that impact archival work in the social media age? Can we develop more effective modes of collaboration and ethical practice among activists, archivists and academics to address these challenges?


The two day event will create a space for conversations between activists, archivists and researchers with the aim of:

– Building communities of practice around ethical and technical challenges in archiving born-digital social movement data.

– Sharing awareness of how to use specific methodologies, tools and services for producing and using archives of born digital activist material.

– Fostering cross-cultural dialogue by bringing activists and archivists from different regions of the world together for in person conversation and network building



Thursday 21 September 3.00-5.00pm Mapping the terrain: archives, social movements and social media

Our opening session explores issues of archives and power, analysing the role of the state and corporations in the archival process, and the contradictions which emerge within that process when state and corporate power is challenged social movements. Our panellists will also examine questions of representation: what is the archive a record of? Whose voices are captured and in what circumstances? Who is missing from the archive?


Chair – Andrew Flinn (UCL)
Panellists – Kira Allmann (Oxford); Bergis Jules (University of California-Riverside); Vernon Mitchell Jr (Washington University, St Louis); Sue Pell (Richmond)

5.00-6.00pm Tea, coffee, biscuits and networking for participants
Friday 22 September 10.00-11.30am Case studies

Presenters from projects which seek to archive social media data reflection on their experiences, exploring challenges posed by:

Platforms (copyright, terms of service, business model, privacy, proprietary code)

Media forms (challenges of dealing with images, video, networked social data from a variety of perspectives such as size, instability of file formats, provenance, fragmented nature of social media information, heterogeneity and complexity of the datasets, dynamic content)
Media content (questions of how represent alternative visions of society, how to deal with graphic representations of violence, hate speech, racism, misogyny)

Jeff Deutch (SyrianArchive); Anisa Hawes (V&A); Alex Hopkins (AirWars); Ed Summers (DocNow);

11.30-11.45am Tea/coffee break
11.45-1.00pm Roundtable: Archiving as practice: institutional and social movement perspectives

In this session, our panellists will reflect on the role of memory institutions in shaping archival practice, divergent attitudes to archiving across social movements and possible routes to collaboration between archivists and activists (both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ social movements).

Chair: Niamh Moore (Edinburgh)
Speakers: Elena Carter (Wellcome Library); Phil Hedges (independent researcher), Nicky Hilton (Bishopsgate Institute

1.00-2.00pm Lunch
2.00-4.00pm Ethics dilemma café
Our final session will focus on the ethical dilemmas which archivists, activists and academics encounter in their work, asking what has changed in the ethical landscape of archival practice with the advent of social media?
4.00-4.15pm Tea/coffee break
4.15-5.00pm Wrap up session and discussion about next steps.
We gratefully acknowledge the funding being provided through the AHRC Care for the Future Theme at Exeter University, the AHRC Digital Transformation Theme at Glasgow University, and the Connected Communities Programme at the University of East Anglia.