News of Whitney Houston’s death rocked the World, but it wasn’t written by an Associated Press journalist. The assassination of Osama Bin Laden hit the headlines, but it didn’t break through Reuters. Just a couple of high profile examples of how news has broken on Twitter before the mainstream managed to get hold of it and confirm them. But this raises a more interesting dilemma.
As tweets become a user commodity and ownership a legal issue just who is responsible for curating history as it happens ? Before we relied on so-called experts and historians to document events after the fact (more often than not with their own personal and political spin on the subject) and pass this knowledge down to adult and children through text and history lessons.
But now ? Events unfold in real-time, people offer opinion as it happens via Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and a number of other online media but is anyone actually recording, curating, collating and processing these as fact for future generations to make sense of ? Is a Trending Topic on Twitter and LinkedIn worthy of mention in the history books or are they just digital blips to be ignored ?
Imagine becoming the World’s first Social Historian. Just where would you start ? Does the Internet of Things remove the need for static historical media because it’s being written as it happens and is accessible by all to consume ? What if the point at which an event makes history is actually recorded wrongly because the sheer weight of public noise via social media alters the facts behind it ?
We are living in an age where data is consumed and discarded in real-time, where opinion can be incited with the simplest of online gestures and where history is in danger of being ignored or altered at the speed of a Tweet.
History may never repeat itself again because of social media. In fact, traditional history as we know it may be consigned to the history books itself.