A Death in the Timeline

Memory and Metadata in Social Platforms


  • Amelia Acker School of Information University of Texas at Austin




This paper explores a Life Event post from Facebook as a point of departure for critical data studies to understand how social media metadata shapes digital cultural memory and the disciplining of data subjects. I discuss some possible interventions that can contribute to our understanding of metadata’s role in the critical study of data, and in particular, how user generated metadata created in social platforms authored by state actors features in to new forms of information control, civic engagement, and networked information technologies. This discussion includes traditional concepts of concern and analysis for information and archival scholars, including creating data as a new form of belonging in society, collection tools and access policies, and the representation of events with metadata, such as death or state-sanctioned violence. In developing these concepts through a reading of a Life event that announces death and state power over life as it is represented in a social platform, I seek to expand the modes that information scholars use to address issues of time, context, and memory in digital archives and metadata emerging from social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pre-print first published online 12/20/2018

Author Biography

Amelia Acker, School of Information University of Texas at Austin

Assistant Professor
School of Information
University of Texas at Austin