Twitter as a Primary Source

Recently in my Anthropology course we’ve been talking about inequality in society, and gradually the conversation progressed to racial inequality. My professor often points to history to explain the origins of said inequalities and slavery often enters the discussion. Humans have a fair amount of experience in enslaving one another as a result of racial prejudice or conquest or what have you. However, today my professor showed us a more recent article to demonstrate that these injuries are perhaps buried deeper in a more modern age, but far from gone. I am of course talking about the reactions of many Hunger Games fans in response to casting decisions for the movie. If you haven’t read one of the articles about this, check it out.

The article describes essentially how many fans had a very different mental conception of certain characters, despite having textual evidence to the contrary, and how the race of these characters affected the way they were perceived. Where did Jezebel find some of these reactions? Twitter. The tweets range from mild shock: “after watching the hunger games preview 6 times in a row, i realized Rue is black. whaaaat?! #shocked” all the way to “Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself“. Despite the societal implications this has, I’m more concerned about the medium these people used to express themselves.

Twitter as of April 2010 has begun donating all public tweets to the Library of Congress, and you can check out that article here. This is and will be such an immensely rich database of the past, first and foremost because of the number of different perspectives it offers. For instance, Twitter played a large role in the recent Egyptian unrest as well as Iran’s election protests. These tweets will hopefully allow a fuller and more complete perspective on historical events as opposed to the limited and often biased versions we have now. The article also mentions that “Twitter will be one of the most informative resources available on modern day culture, including economic, social and political trends, as well as consumer behavior and social trends.”

It’s tough to keep track of one’s digital footprint in the current state of things, but before you tweet make sure it’s something you’re willing to have go down in history bearing your name.

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