The importance of social metadata

Jessica Bushey

On June 2, 2016, I participated in a panel presentation on personal archives at the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Montreal, Quebec. I presented a combination of research conducted as part of my doctoral dissertation and the research undertaken on model cloud contracts as part of InterPARES Trust NA Team Project 14. The focus of my presentation was the importance of social metadata created between members of social media platforms and linked to digital photographs through the application interface as comments, tags, likes and ratings. In my presentation I emphasized the “public turn” that has occurred in the personal photography with the recent adoption of camera phones and photo-sharing and social networking sites for sharing and storing growing digital collections. During my presentation I highlighted the changing roles and responsibilities of creators, preservers and social media providers in regards to creating, accessing, managing, storing and preserving born-digital images and personal digital archives that are primarily stored in cloud-based applications owned by third parties. My final point to the audience, which was comprised of archivists and records managers, was one of caution regarding the legal limitations placed on creators through social media provider’s Terms of Use and the potential problems individuals and families face when a creator dies and their online collections are deemed intangible digital assets held on servers under the possession of social media providers. Archivists must be aware of the risks posed to future donation of online collections due to restrictive legal contracts between social media providers and individuals, particularly in situations where the creator has died and family members are trying to gain access and/or control for purposes of deletion or preservation of personal digital archives. Feedback from the audience were focused on two themes:  1) the challenges to understanding the legal implications of cloud-based services; and 2) the challenge to capturing and linking social metadata to digital images shared on social media platforms.

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