Apr 202008

[Originally published on Familiar Strangers blog]

Like my fellow MACTers, I have been struggling with my abstract, trying to wrestle a jumble of unrelated thoughts into something somewhat intelligent. To be honest, I find this process disappointing. My ideas always FEEL better than they sound. Still, deadlines must be met, so here it is:

Editable memories: writing and rewriting personal histories on the internet

The recent explosion of collaborative tools on the internet has enabled a large community of amateur genealogists and local historians to connect to each other and share their research which, for the most part, narrates the lives of their own ancestors. The world’s largest genealogy wiki, www.werelate.org, contains over 2 million pages which are devoted to the life of one individual and which can be collaboratively edited by anyone. As editable spaces, wikis are a unique medium in which to record personal history. In my study, I would like to examine how choice of media influences our constructions of our recorded past. Does this process of writing and rewriting our pasts on a wiki mimic oral traditions? Do textual conventions of story ownership interfere with this collective process of remembering? This will be a qualitative study drawing from three sources: 1) my own experiences as a participant in the community, 2) available documentation at the web site, and 3) semi-structured interviews with other genealogists.

I think that my hesitation comes from the fact that I am also really drawn towards studying e-democracy and Government 2.0, topics which really inspire me and which have a practical application. Rationalization: looking a Web 2.0 applications in a different context can help you to contextual them in the government setting. OK, my internal devil’s advocate voice is buying this rationalization for the moment.

Although maybe I am just struggling because it is April 20, and there is a snow storm raging outside my window.

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