The Use of Social Media as a Dated Document and its Prospect as an Archive
Accepting the Internet as a document brings about a new sense of history writing. History, written by an omnipotent source, loses its dominance due to the opportunities presented by the Internet, where we can speak of a kind of history writing that regenerates itself and is saved every second, due to a great number of co-existing sources and personal documents. Online, the distance between document and researcher becomes ambiguous, and the Internet brings forward the idea of every researcher/user becoming a history writer.
In a way, the document is a remaining mark left behind by events. The historian reconstructs events by tracing these marks. There is a widespread presumption that the discipline of history builds an objective narrative of what is real, using complete and accurate documents. However, we know that, while forming official historical fiction, governments always turn classical historical narratives into texts filled with government ideology. And they have done so by embracing this assumption of objectivity and realness. This is the most significant evidence of how history is formed by fictionalizing the past to legitimize the present and – if possible – the future.
We can argue that this situation has reached a breaking point with the use of the Internet. The neverending creation and circulation of all kinds of documents – through shared information and photos – has introduced a new concept of the archive. If we take the classical understanding of history into account, what kind of change has the historical document been going through? What role do Internet archives play on new history writing? With this new technology, it is possible to evaluate the past and also be informed about what happens 'now and here'. We can get what is current from all corners of the world, without the limitations of time and space. The role social media plays in this regard is that it makes us capable of creating an achive through personal sharing. We can record and publish a daily happening the same day, live, not necessarily as a reporter or historian but just as a passerby. How do these sharings affect history writing? Which aspects of this new kind of archive should we evaluate while talking about a document driven history writing?
When considered from this point of view, the Gezi Park protests set a great example. While having great importance in Turkey's history, it was also a period in which these new possibilities in history writing were brought into action.
According to the statement made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 23 June, a total of 2.5 million people attended the Gezi protests, which were organized in 79 cities – excluding Bayburt and Bingöl – and more supported the movement over social networks. During the events, six civilians and one superintendant were killed and 8163 people were injured.
During this period, the Internet became the place where freedom of expression was most broadly exercized. Opinions, together with information, was constantly flowing through this electronic virtual platform and protest movements were organized online. It is safe to say that the government proceeded inconsistently and chaotically, because the law and its regulations could not keep up with the speed of technology. Then we started to read about the arrests of Facebook users. After a while, inaccurate photos and information was being shared online. The situation verified that this new kind of digital archive, which doesn’t have a control mechanism, could not be evaluated with the classical understanding of history writing.
This brings us to the project, www.historicalfuturemuseum.org, a website that was created as part of Ibraaz Platform 006, in line with what we witnessed with the Gezi protests, as experienced over social media. The archive has been created with the use of personal and daily photos – which constitutes a big part of the work – which are uploaded by the both of us each day as a pair. And, as the days pass, these images fade with time – dissolving into the online sphere like material images left to the traces of time. The intention of this project is to compel us to think about the role of people and their assessment criteria in history writing. It creates areas of questioning in terms of how we experience history from our own perspectives. The work, which is constructed on the idea that history writing is not possible, focuses on the concepts of memory and recollection. The slowly fading photos from the past emphasizes the fact that it is impossible to read yesterday completely from the perspective of today.
In the www.historicalfuturemuseum.org, the archive is recreated everyday and it is open to the viewers. In this work, history and reality are open to comments and ideas; it is an Internet museum built on images. The images are what is real; they are with us, they are now and here. The work, titled Yesterday is Yesterday, Today is Today, invites the viewer to enter into this awareness.
See an interview with Öner on Ibraaz here: http://www.ibraaz.org/interviews/114.