Posterity and Me

We have a friend who has great musical talent. So we were delighted but not surprised when we heard that one of his compositions had been selected to be added to a special collection at the Library of Congress. After all, his piece truly was beautiful enough to merit saving it for posterity.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can say with honesty (or a straight face) that any of my 8000 tweets deserve the same treatment.  Nevertheless, the Library of Congress in its wisdom has decided that my tweets (as well as all the tweets of every other Twitter user) are to be saved for posterity.  My initial reaction was that this had to be an April Fool’s day joke.  But, apparently not:

Picture 5

According to Nate Anderson, the reasons for preserving these bits of ephemera reflect modern trends in scholarship:

There’s been a turn toward historicism in academic circles over the last few decades, a turn that emphasizes not just official histories and novels but the diaries of women who never wrote for publication, or the oral histories of soldiers from the Civil War, or the letters written by a sawmill owner. The idea is to better understand the context of a time and place, to understand the way that all kinds of people thought and lived, and to get away from an older scholarship that privileged the productions of (usually) elite males.

The LoC’s Twitter archive will provide a similar service, offering a social history of hipsters, geeks, nerds, and whatever Ashton Kutcher is. As Twitter continues its march into the mainstream, the service really will offer a real-time, unvarnished look at what’s on people’s minds.

But will the knowledge that our words are being saved forever lead us to change the way we tweet?  Will our 140-character blurts, verbal gaffes and inanities now be transformed into pearls of wisdom?  Probably not in my lifetime.  However, I will try to remember to be a bit more circumspect.  What about you?

[Photo Credit: Wilson Loo]

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