After 18 months in development, the first release of the DocNow tool is expected by fall/winter 2017.
DocNow, short for “Documenting the Now,” is a free, open-source tool designed to support the ethical appraisal, collection, use, and preservation of social media content.
The purpose of DocNow is to help archivists and scholars make sense of large datasets of social media content. DocNow’s developers hope that by providing this free and easy to use tool, users can gather and preserve posts made by everyday people, particularly those of eyewitnesses, which often challenge the accepted narratives presented by the mainstream media on controversial social issues.
UCR Library’s University and Political Papers Archivist Bergis Jules has spoken frequently at public events about his work with DocNow, with a particular focus on the ethical aspects surrounding the curation of social media content into archives.
“Just because things are public doesn’t mean you can take them,” Jules said. “People have a right to privacy, a right to be forgotten on the internet. There are a lot of surveillance concerns with activists who are being monitored by police illegally through their social media accounts.” DocNow will try to honor these ethical principles by respecting the privacy of individual users who do not want their posts to be included in an archive or a research dataset.
Originally spurred by the online discussion surrounding the death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, MO, the creators behind DocNow intend for this platform to serve two purposes moving forward: community-building and scholarly research. They hope that the many archives people will create by using DocNow will influence how history is written for future generations, allowing for the underrepresented voices of people of color to be included in the historical records of significant events.
Jules mused on Medium, “What would have remained today of the public social media record if micro blogging services like Twitter had been around during the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the acquittal of the officers and the subsequent riots?”
DocNow will help to provide this missing piece of the puzzle for future generations of scholars to ponder.
Funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, DocNow was developed through a collaboration between UC Riverside, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland.