The value of social media
Did you know that every second ~6,000 tweets1 and six new Facebook2 profiles are published on the Web? Add to that the 50 billion photos shared on Instagram since its launch in 20103; which results in an ever growing social web.
The conclusion is inevitable: today, social media are unavoidable and constitute an integral part of our daily lives and even our culture. As vectors of a large amount of content, they are rich in potential and represent a non-negligible source of information for many researchers in fields as vast as history, political science, linguistics, sociology, and information and computer science.
KBR has launched the BESOCIAL project, a two-year project that aims to set up a sustainable strategy for archiving and preserving social media in Belgium. The challenge is equally complex as the data: social media are challenging from the point of view of conservation, preservation and accessibility. This is due to their uniqueness and ephemeral nature in particular.
Choice of corpus
Initially, the objective is to archive the social media content related to certain Belgian events selected during the project, as well as the social media content related to KBR’s newspaper collections. It is envisioned to explore how this unpublished data can be opened up for use. The collections of social media content will also constitute an interesting complement to the websites archived during PROMISE research project (2017-2019).
The BESOCIAL project was presented during the last International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) Research Speaker Series Webinar in August 2020:
During the first phase of the project, the project team undertook an extensive review of existing social media archiving projects abroad. The review includes policies regarding selection, access and preservation, technical solutions for social media archiving and foreign legal frameworks for social media archiving. This phase of the project resulted in the following research results:
- A spreadsheet comparing technical solutions for social media archiving
- A spreadsheet comparing different social media archiving projects abroad
- A research report (pdf) containing a detailed analysis of the research results of the first phase of the project
The presentations of the concluding colloquium ‘Wanted: social media data. Archiving practices and research use’, which took place on 15 September 2022, can be found on the KBR YouTube channel.
The BESOCIAL project, financed by Belspo BRAIN-be, is the result of a collaboration between KBR and:
- CENTAL (Centre for Natural Language Processing) at the Catholic University of Leuven
- CRIDS (Research Center in Information, Law and Society) at UNamur
- GentCDH (Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities) at Ghent University
- IDLab (Internet Technology & Data Science Lab) at Ghent University
- MICT (Research Group for Media, Innovation and Communication Technologies) at Ghent University
This fruitful cooperation between a federal institution and three Belgian universities thus emphasises the importance of interdisciplinarity in the context of a complex project in which technical, operational and legal aspects are at play.
Contact person: Friedel Geeraert (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1 Source Internet Live Stats, July 2020.
2 Source Facebook, July 2020.
3 Source Statistata, July 2020.