The aim of the BESOCIAL project is to develop a sustainable social media archiving strategy for Belgium. Corpora of archived social media content hold huge research potential for social and political scientists, historians, experts in communication studies, linguists etc. However, social media content is very ephemeral and is often not archived thereby creating serious challenges for (digital) scholars who want to use archived social media content as a data resource. A significant number of heritage institutions abroad have already set up programmes to archive social media, but social media archiving is still an emerging topic for which the standards for capturing and archiving are yet to be consolidated.
The first objective within the project is to undertake a thorough review of existing social media archiving projects in Belgium and abroad. A two-fold selection strategy will be used. On the one hand, the social media channels used by Belgian newspapers that are included in the current (paper) collection of KBR will be archived and analysed. On the other hand, social media content related to a number of events - such as specific, often unforeseen, events of national and historical importance occur that become hot topics on social media platforms (e.g. the fire at the Notre-Dame in Paris or the terrorist attacks in Brussels) - will be selected during the course of the project and will also be collected. Two additional objectives are to set up pilots for social media archiving and for providing access to the social media archive. The obtained research results will feed into recommendations for sustainable social media archiving in Belgium, which is the overall objective
of the project.
The network is composed of one federal scientific institution and three universities from the different language communities: KBR (Royal Library of Belgium), CRIDS (Research Centre in Information, Law and Society) at Namur University, Cental (Centre de traitement automatique du langage) at Université Catholique de Louvain, ID Lab (Internet Technology & Data Science Lab), Ghent CDH (Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities) and MICT (Research Group for Media and ICT) at Ghent University. The interdisciplinarity of the research network will ensure that the technical, legal and operational aspects are covered as well as aspects related to user requirements and will foster cross-fertilisation within the project. The results of the project will be a first major step towards implementing a long-term social media archiving strategy for Belgium.