Saturday 02/04/17 2PM-5:30PM
New Museum TheaterVisit Us

Digital Social Memory

Ethics, Privacy, and Representation in Digital Preservation

Cover Image:

Screenshot of “Thanks, Obama,” an archival collection created by Dragan Espenschied, Preservation Director at Rhizome, for the White House’s “Opening Up Our Data to the Public” initiative in 2016

Livestream for this event will be available at 2 p.m. R

With the in-house development of Webrecorder —an initiative that puts high-fidelity web archiving and playback capabilities into the hands of users— Rhizome has been working toward the goal of fostering a more durable, ethical, decentralized, and inclusive future for digital social memory.

If social memory can be defined as “how and what social groups remember,” then digital culture, as Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito point out, changes both the what and the how of social memory. What is remembered must now include a wide range of new kinds of web-specific cultural practices; how it is remembered is often mediated by new technical environments. Digital social memory often takes shape in informal settings outside of traditional institutions, and is often subjected to invasive surveillance and unwanted publicity.

This conference will convene a diverse range of experts in various facets of digital social memory for an afternoon of case-studies and conversations addressing the implications of Webrecorder’s model for the web archiving field and for digital social memory as a whole. This program is organized by Michael Connor, Artistic Director, Rhizome, with Aria Dean, Assistant Curator, Rhizome.


2 PM: Welcome Remarks
Zachary Kaplan, Executive Director, Rhizome
Michael Connor, Artistic Director, Rhizome

2:20 PM: Archival Narratives and Counter-narratives
Far from serving as a neutral reflection of events, digital social memory can actively shape political reality. Chaired by Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the New School, this panel explores the political uses of web archives, focusing on the White House’s archiving of President Obama’s Twitter account and Net Freedom Pioneers’ efforts to deliver web archives to areas affected by internet censorship. Participants include Mehdi Yahyanejad, founder of Net Freedom Pioneers; Josh Miller, Director of Product Management for the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy; and Dragan Espenschied, Preservation Director at Rhizome.

3:20 PM: Fair Use, Publicity, and Privacy
Social media archives often reuse copyrighted material in order to support the efforts of journalists and scholars. At the same time, this kind of fair use may violate the privacy or contextual integrity of individual users’ posts. Chaired by Rhizome’s Artistic Director Michael Connor, this panel explores the tension between public and private information with participants including Jack Cushman, attorney, programmer, and a developer of; Bruce Goldner, Partner at Skadden and co-head of its Intellectual Property and Technology Group; and Alice Marwick, social media researcher and fellow at the Data & Society Research Institute.

4:40 PM: Keynote: Failures of Care
Drawing its title from a question posed by artist Theaster Gates, “Who feels responsible for the failure of care around the legacies of great black people around the world?”, this panel explores the urgent task of archiving black culture in the face of historical erasure. It features panelists Bergis Jules, University and Political Papers Archivist at the University of California, Riverside; Simone Browne, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin; Doreen St. Felix, writer at MTV News; and artist, educator, and writer Kameelah Janan Rasheed.


Digital Social Memory is generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Major funding for the Webrecorder project is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Rhizome public programs are made possible with support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

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