Recording Contemporary Family History Through Social Media

  • William Sims BainbridgeEmail author
Part of the Human–Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Starting with the remarkable example of a now-vanished webring that in 1999 connected 584 amateur websites commemorating deceased children, this chapter expresses clear awareness that today’s social media are potentially unstable, despite the fact they have become tremendously influential in modern culture. As a simple demonstration project, a secret Facebook group called Bailiwick Archives was created to share among living family members pictures and documents belonging to the particular family whose history this book has used as its primary example. The content of the archive included a great variety of materials, including a 546-line poem about the contrasting forms of families dating from 1874, a lecture about the plight of poor urban mothers given at the 1897 meeting of the National Congress of Mothers, and a reminiscence by a son about the process of publishing a novel written by his deceased mother, that was a fictionalized version of their own real family history. The chapter then uses Facebook and other online communication media in search for all the former homes of a particular married couple, discovering that one unexpectedly was now at the very center of a radical religious community with an intense focus on building families, and that four competing Facebook community groups were debating the intense cultural conflict around that utopian experiment. Other examples show how towns vary greatly in the extent to which there are Facebook groups oriented to their history, based on factors as diverse as culture conflict, enthusiasm by amateur community historians, and tourism advertising. The chapter concludes with examples showing that distinct wikis can be created to organize information about particular families, serving as encyclopedia-style social media.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent historianChantillyUSA

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