Why We Archive: Preserving the stories of a community coming together By Miranda Barrie
On October 2, 2017 I woke up in Santiago, Chile to a notification that there had been a shooting in my hometown of Las Vegas. I opened the Twitter application and began scrolling through my timeline, looking for mentions of the size and scale of the shooting. I started to see the numbers of injured persons rise as I repeatedly swiped down to refresh the site. I had no idea where my family members were, and no one was picking up the phone. Feeling panicked, I began doing the only thing I felt I could do at the time: amplifying the needs of the community by retweeting calls for blood donations from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
As the day progressed and I confirmed the location and safety of each of my family members, I stayed connected to relief efforts through Twitter. I watched friends work quickly to organize blood drives and set up gofundme campaigns for the victims. I saw community leaders amplify the urgent requests of hospitals and the police department. Celebrities and government officials from around the world tweeted their support and condolences for the 58 lives lost. I was over 5,000 miles away from home, but Twitter allowed me to feel close to the healing process of a community that I love.
A year later, as a data curation specialist at the UNLV Libraries, I have the opportunity to connect the Las Vegas community to a collection of over 14 million tweets surrounding the 1 October mass shooting. My role at the libraries is to serve as a resource for students and faculty who wish to use the collection for research purposes. To make the collection more widely accessible, we are releasing a series of tutorials that explain how to collect and analyze Twitter data for research purposes. The first tutorial in this series is available now.
The first tutorial details how to ethically collect and share Twitter data using an open source tool, Twarc. Understanding the collection process of the 1 October Twitter dataset will be useful for those that wish to explore the full collection. The first several tutorials in the series will require no prior programming experience, so don’t let that stop you from checking them out.
Twitter data can help researchers understand how communities form and change over time. The 1 October Collection contains powerful stories that show how the Las Vegas community came together as Twitter users around the globe watched and waited for answers. I look forward to seeing the innovative ways departments across campus use this dataset to help further document and analyze the resiliency displayed by our city during one of its darkest moments
Through a series of tutorials, University libraries is working to make the 1 October Twitter Collection accessible to researchers across a diverse range of disciplines. You can access the publicly available dataset. UNLV students, staff, and faculty can access the private dataset. Access the first tutorial in the 1 October Twitter Collection series.