Twitter and Microhistory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article explores the distinct resemblance between Twitter and microhistory, and examines the adequateness of Twitter contents as historical document. Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Since its creation in 2006, Twitter, with its unique characteristics of instant interactivity and mobility, has gained notability and popularity worldwide. It is like to be of considerable value to future historians, because Twitter contains more records by more people than ever preserved in any medium before. Microhistory, first developed in the 1970s, is the study of the past on a very small scale applying zoom-in methodology. Although microhistory had been introduced to Korea during the 1990s, there still exists much of misunderstanding and confusions surrounding its nature. Microhistory is to be distinguished from the monographs which deal with petty subject, the history of everyday life, case studies or local history. Also, there are several kinds of microhistory, and the scholars who have led the way have understood it variously. Most of microhistorians attack the methodology of the social sciences, including social history led by Annal school. They argue that traditional approaches have made generalizations which do not explain the concrete reality of the small-scale life of people in the past. Twitter contents(Tweet) which are comprised of small and trivial chatting among users could be very valuable to microhistorian if looked through collectively. Microhistory emphasizes to reveal the complicated function of individual relationships within each and every social setting. To grasp this complicatedness microhistory turned to the narrative as an analytical and descriptive tool. Since Twitter's main function is to make and expand individual's social relationships, its contents could be the most adequate materials for microhistorians' project. The scheme of microhistory is designed to overcome the constrain of territorial nation-state, emphasizing the independent forces in small community. On the other hand, many of microhistorical works began to demonstrate the transnational aspect in the lives of small villages. In this context, the deterritoriality that microhistory has shown could also be found in Twitter, because Twitter is centered on the node of each individual, and at the same time, based on the world-wide network. Both Twitter and microhistory contain the strong tendency of resistance. Microhistorians who have been pursuing to write a history from below, try to restore agency of obscure people. Twitter, with the unfiltered communications and witness accounts among multitude, often promotes the grass-root democracy. Overall, Twitter could be extremely useful material to be used for the expansion of microhistorical study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-204
Number of pages30
JournalThe Korean Journal of History of Historiography
Volume21
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jun 30

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

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