Tag Archives: activism

Archiving Social Media about Duke Activism

At the University Archives, we work hard to dispel the stereotype that we are merely reactive documenters of Duke’s history, that we wait to receive evidence of activity reflected in the records of the offices, organizations, and bodies that donate or transfer materials to us. We pursue student organizations‘ materials and meet regularly with representatives from both transitory and permanent bodies active in the Duke community. Since 2010, we have selectively crawled websites related to Duke.

The recent activism on campus has given us the opportunity to try new methods of documentation. Students and protesters disseminated much of the information related to the Allen Building Sit-In staged by Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity (DSWS) and ongoing tenting on the Abele Quad on Twitter, Instagram, and other web platforms. The Chronicle published a lot of coverage in print issues of the paper, but created multimedia presentations online and on Twitter. What follows are some of the methods we used to approach capturing online materials related to student activism, brief summaries of how well we did, and some early thoughts on what our responsibilities are with respect to access and re-use of this material.

We used three tools to primarily collect web materials, each with its own strengths. The Rubenstein Library subscribes to the Internet Archive’s Archive-It web crawler, which allows us to execute captures of web pages. I wrote about our broader efforts around Archive-It and Duke History last year on this blog. Archive-It is best suited for more static websites, and is less effective at capturing dynamic conversations. For the recent student activism, Archive-It came in handy when capturing the website of the DSWS, as well as the ongoing, related criticism of campus culture at Duke by the #DukeEnrage collaborative.

Archive-It has some capability for capturing Twitter, but it’s Twitter as viewed on Twitter.com: it’s a flat presentation of a Twitter feed or search. Here is a comparison of a tweet presented by Twitter, and what it looks like in its raw form.

01_tweet_frontend

02_tweet_backend

This lack of flexibility influenced our decision to look elsewhere for capturing Twitter. We settled on two applications: Social Feed Manager and Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS). Both tools, once configured, query the Twitter API, retrieve tweets in their native form, and do some level of processing on them. Social Feed Manager stores tweets and allows the user to export them as a CSV or Excel file for offline storage. TAGS parses tweets into a Google Sheet, which can be downloaded for offline storage. For logistical reasons, we chose to use Social Feed Manager in the rare occasion of attempting to capture the tweets of an entire account—in this case, the @dsws2016 account.

@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application.
@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application

 

An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets.
An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets

We used TAGS to crawl hashtags. Since November, we had been capturing tweets related to #DukeEnrage, #DUBetter, and #DukeYouAreGuilty. Once the Allen Building Sit-in began, we added #DismantleDukePlantation and #DukeOccupation2016. Most of these were relatively low-use hashtags, with one exception: use appears to have coalesced around #DismantleDukePlantation, resulting in around 7000 unique tweets from the week of the sit-in, and another 2000 from the time since.

TAGS summary dashboard
TAGS summary dashboard

 

#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS
#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS

This work is still ongoing. So far, I think of our efforts as a modest success. The web, and especially social media, is ephemeral (although, oddly and wonderfully, aspects of the web we thought would disappear have persisted). That said, these efforts represent only one or two angles into the online conversation. Newer platforms like Yik Yak and Snapchat are either location based or expose content only temporarily. The tools available to capture Instagram are not as developed as those for Twitter. We cannot, nor do we want to, capture everything.

There are also questions of ethics and access. We received (enthusiastic, as it happens) permission from students associated with DSWS to capture their Twitter feed*. It would be impossible to seek permission from each individual Twitter user who tweeted using #DismantleDukePlantation. Although everything we targeted is still currently available through Twitter, the users who created it likely did not expect it to be re-contextualized—even if they fully understood the terms of service they clicked through when they signed up for the service. Twitter would frown upon us releasing material we captured through the API on the open web. For the time being, we tentatively plan on making the Twitter content available in our reading room, though we would need to consider anonymizing the data first.

This is by far not the only arm of our effort in documenting recent and ongoing student activism on campus. We fully expect for administrative records from relevant University offices to be transferred to the University Archives. We have been in touch with classes interested in further documenting the student voices involved. Selectively capturing Twitter and crawling static web pages allows us to capture student activists and their activities in the moment

*[edit] A former University Archives student worker, responsible for outreach in DSWS, granted UA explicit permission to capture the group’s Twitter and Facebook content.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

Mandy Carter, Peace Walker

Since starting my internship with the Sallie Bingham Center last August, I’ve spent time each week processing the papers of Mandy Carter, a self-described “southern out black lesbian social justice activist.”

This year Carter celebrates 45 years of social, racial, and lesbigaytrans justice organizing, and it’s almost impossible to summarize all that she has done—beginning with peace activism in the late 1960s and continuing today in her role as National Coordinator for the Bayard Rustin Commemoration Project of the National Black Justice Coalition. So instead, here’s one small peek.

Though based in Durham for much of her career, Carter has traveled up, down, and around the country in support of her activism–and in the summer of 1983, she walked from Durham, North Carolina to Seneca, New York as part of the Women’s Peace Walk.

From left to right: Judy Winston, Mandy Carter, Elana Freedom. The trio completed the entire 600+ mile walk. Along the way, other women joined for a day, weekend, week, or longer. Newspaper clipping, 1983, Mandy Carter Papers
From left to right: Judy Winston, Mandy Carter, Elana Freedom. The trio completed the entire 600+ mile walk. Along the way, other women joined for a day, weekend, week, or longer. Newspaper clipping, 1983, from the Mandy Carter Papers.

Organized by the Southeast Regional Office of the War Resisters League—where Carter worked at the time—the Women’s Peace Walk aimed to draw attention to and protest the build-up of nuclear arms and specifically, the planned deployment of Cruise and Pershing II missiles to Europe later that year.

Women’s Peace Walk brochure, 1983.  From the Mandy Carter Papers.
Women’s Peace Walk brochure, 1983. From the Mandy Carter Papers.

Organizers timed the end of the walk to coincide with the beginning of the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, and the destination itself held particular significance. The area was not only home to the Seneca Army Depot, a nuclear bomb and missile storage site, it was also where women of the Iroquois Nation met in 1590 to demand an end to war among the tribes and where more than 300 men and women came together in 1848 for the nation’s first women’s rights convention.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mandy Carter, her lifelong activism, and social change in Durham over the past 30 years, head down to the Durham County Library at 5:30pm on Wednesday for a panel discussion featuring Carter, Caitlin Breedlove (Co-Director, Southerners On New Ground) and Steve Schewel (Founder, Independent Weekly). Event details are available here.

Post contributed by Stephanie Barnwell, Bingham Center Intern.

Digitizing the LCRM Update #9: Remembering the Allen Building Takeover

This month’s Digitizing the Long Civil Rights Movement update pauses to look back into Duke’s own past struggles with racial equality.  On February 13, 1969, students in the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building where the university’s primary administration offices were (and still are) located.  These students demanded that Duke take steps to enact racial equality on campus, including the founding of an African-American Studies department, the hiring of more African-American professors, and the establishment of an African-American cultural center on campus.  Similar demands had been made before from members of the Black Studies Program, as featured in our fourth update in this blog series.

What distinguished the Allen Building Takeover from the previous efforts for reform was its forcefulness—on both sides of the debate.  The Takeover marked the first such occupation by students in Duke’s history.  The administration’s response also became notable for what some members of the student body perceived to be its brutality.  Police officers dispatched to the scene used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered around the building, leading to a “riot” on the main quad of West Campus.

Photos from <i>The Chronicle</i>, February 16, 1969.

Photos from <i>The Chronicle</i>, February 16, 1969.
Both photos from The Chronicle, February 16, 1969.
Allen Building Takeover Collection, Box 1, Folder 10: abtms01010035

In the wake of the Takeover, students rallied to enact the suggested agenda of the original occupiers.  Eventually, most of the demands did become standard practice at Duke, but the change occurred more gradually than what the galvanized student body had wanted in February 1969.  The items selected above are from a photo essay published by The Chronicle (Duke’s independent student newspaper) that encapsulated the events of Takeover.

We are happy to announce that the Allen Building Takeover Collection and its wealth of primary documents and remembrances of the important event will soon become available online to researchers.

For more information on the Content, Context, and Capacity Project for Digitizing the LCRM, please visit our website or like us on Facebook.

The grant-funded CCC Project is designed to digitize selected manuscripts and photographs relating to the long civil rights movement. For more about Rubenstein Library materials being digitized through the CCC Project, check out previous progress updates posted here at The Devil’s Tale

Post contributed by Josh Hager, CCC Graduate Assistant.

A Decidedly Feminist Taxonomy: Meredith Tax Comes to the Sallie Bingham Center

Meredith Tax, taken by Miriam Berkeley
Meredith Tax, taken by Miriam Berkeley

The personal and professional papers of writer, organizer, and leading women’s movement activist Meredith Tax came to the Sallie Bingham Center in 2010. To celebrate the acquisition of this extensive collection the Center will host a symposium in Tax’s honor on April 13 and 14 called Acting Across Borders: The Future of the Feminist 1970s. Along with Meredith Tax, distinguished African scholar and activist Patricia McFadden will present the keynote address of an event that aims to grapple with how the interventions and methodologies of the women’s liberation movement inform current and future social justice movements. In anticipation of her trip to Duke, Meredith took a few minutes to share her reasons for putting her papers here and to give a sense of what people can expect to learn at the symposium.

Why did you decide to put your papers in the Bingham Center?

I investigated several feminist archives and chose the Bingham Center because it had a much more energetic and activist approach to archival work than I saw elsewhere. I want my papers to be used not only by scholars but by young people who want to learn from the history of earlier social movements. Because the Bingham Center does outreach to inform students about its collections and gives fellowships for researchers to work in its archive, I think my papers will be most accessible there.

What would you tell students about the upcoming symposium celebrating your work?

We are at the dawn of a period of increasing political activism. Attendees at this symposium will learn from the life stories of people who shaped the women’s movement here and internationally. Speakers will talk about their own work and life experiences. They will discuss the way issues of race and class impacted the relationship between feminism and the left, the development of ecofeminism and international women’s movements, and the centrality of questions of sexuality, gender, and LGBT rights. Feminists from Southern Africa, Algeria, and India will discuss their own rich and complex confrontations with sexism, nationalism and religious fundamentalism. These stories will show that, contrary to the right wing myth that feminists are white middle class women who are just out for themselves, feminists in the US and elsewhere have always grappled with issues of race and class, war and peace, nationalism and the environment, and that these efforts continue from one generation to the next.

Frances Ansley and Meredith Tax at a Bread & Roses-organized protest in 1970. Ansley will also speak at the upcoming symposium.
Frances Ansley and Meredith Tax at a Bread & Roses-organized protest in 1970.

What are some of the topics you plan to address in your keynote speech at the symposium?

I will tell the story of my life, from a childhood shaped by the sexism of the 50s to the early days of the Boston women’s movement, battles within the left and my own struggle to overcome the ignorance resulting from class and race privilege, my participation in the reproductive rights movement, and my work in International PEN (Postsecondary Education Network International) as part of a global movement for women’s human rights which must go on in this new period to link the struggle for social and economic justice and sustainability with the fight against all forms of fundamentalism.

For more information on Meredith Tax, check out her website. And be sure to register here to come to the Acting Across Borders symposium on April 13 and 14, 2012. Registration is free and open to the public!