Documenting the Jubilee with social media - the opportunity and the challenges

Documenting the Jubilee with social media – the opportunity and the challenges

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This weekend will see huge celebrations all over the UK (and beyond) to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (or maybe just to celebrate four days off work). In London we will see parades, a concert outside Buckingham Palace and the largest flotilla the Thames has ever seen. This is an important historical event. And one that will be recorded by thousands, if not millions of chroniclers at events up and down the country.

Social media tools and mobile devices have turned all of us into chroniclers for our lives and for major events we live through. The role that has traditionally been the reserve of a small few has been democratised. We can all record and share our experiences on tools like Facebook or Twitter, use apps like Instagram to record the moment and provide both real-time and reflective commentary on the events of the weekend.

This is a huge opportunity. If everybody who attends an event and uses such social media tools were to share just one photo or commentary, then we would have millions of individual stories that will recount the events of the weekend. And people will probably share more than one update.

This content is important. It is people recording their own experiences of major events. In the future people will be able to use this content to piece together how we live our lives and how we celebrate together. Which is why it is a shame that there is no better way of curating and piecing together the individual stories people are creating.

The problem is not getting people to share, it is how we then find and structure these contributions.

We can find some of the content if people use hashtags to group their contributions together. A quick search for #jubilee on Twitter or Instagram uncovers a wealth of people recording the events so far – 25,000 photos alone on Instagram by Saturday evening. But this must only scratch the surface. Not everybody uses hashtags, people use different ones – creating their own for their own events or just to be different.

As well as not being able to find all of the content, we also have no way of visualising it, seeing it in one place as a record of events for those of us experiencing the events and those looking back on it as history.

For major events like this, I always find it a huge shame that no effort is made to curate content and provide a user-created record of events for the historical record. With millions of people chronicling their individual experiences we could paint the most incredible picture of Britain, and how we celebrate. Sadly without this all we have is millions of pieces of unstructured content scattered across the internet.

Photo credit: Jubilee Flags by Garry Knight