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Collecting social media
The Library collects material to provide a documentary record of life in New South Wales and to provide information services to the people of New South Wales.
The Library’s Social Media Archive is a digital collection, providing a snapshot of life in New South Wales in the twenty-first century.
For researchers of the future pondering the question of what life was like in New South Wales in 2017, answers will be born-digital as well as included in books, newspapers, manuscripts and other formats.
In the same way you can go into a library today and look through newspapers and other documentation from the early twentieth century, the Social Media Archive will allow researchers in the future to gain insights into life now.
The Library has developed a Digital Collecting Strategy (PDF) to ensure that it is collecting both digital and analog formats.
Social Media Archive
A significant activity in the Library's Digital Collecting Strategy is a partnership with CSIRO Data 61 to collect and archive publicly-available social media content. The Library has been working with CSIRO and their tool Vizie since 2012 and has collected tens of million of posts.
How does the archiving tool work?
The Library identifies keywords and hashtags to collect. The Archive gathers social media posts that contain these keywords and hashtags from a range of sources, including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. Vizie supports the collection of similar content in several languages including English, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic.
We respond to emerging issues and significant events quickly by adding new hashtags and phrases, which immediately pick up posts on these new topics.
The Social Media Archive is designed to only show aggregate data. It allows users to view trends discussed on social media, but does not support viewing individual posts. The collected data is archived within the Library’s digital environment.
The user interface was designed by the CSIRO Data61 team in collaboration with the Library. The design allows for the data to be displayed geographically, as well as visualised through a 'wheel of emotions'.
What has been collected?
The Library collects over 40 million posts annually, documenting a range of subjects including politics, topical issues, business, sport, arts, the environment and major events.
Significant hashtags collected include #auspol for Australian political discussion, #nswpol for New South Wales political discussion, and #covid19nsw for COVID-19 related discussion in NSW.
Significant events documented included:
- the Census (2016, 2021) — ‘What do you mean they all logged on at the same time?’ #census2016 #CensusFail
- 2019–20 bushfires
- COVID-19 pandemic
- Australia Day — ‘I say it every year but can we just have Australia Day on May 8? May 8? M8! Maaaaaate’
- NSW floods
- NSW and federal elections.
What can I do with the Social Media Archive?
The API for the Social Media Archive was made available for public access in May 2021 with plans to develop it further in 2022. CSIRO developed a usage guide to support the use of the API, including registering for an account.
Reuse of information
If you wish to reuse information gathered through this tool, you must abide by the terms and conditions of the individual platforms.
What to do if you are concerned about content included in the live interface?
This a live feed reflecting real time social media activity in New South Wales that is publicly available. There may be occasions when content is considered to breach copyright or other relevant law, or contains culturally sensitive information.
If you have concerns with any content, refer to the Library 's endorsement of the NSLA position on Take-down Requests.