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All out in the open

Historian Ramachandra Guha once raised a very important question: historians dig up archival letters to know about a person and his relationship with others.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2010 21:17 IST

Historian Ramachandra Guha once raised a very important question: historians dig up archival letters to know about a person and his relationship with others. A Jawaharlal Nehru biography, for instance, cannot do without a careful study of the letters he wrote. But what happens to future biographers in a world where everyone writes emails and hardly letters? Well, catching emails of greats in the future may still be a daunting task but the American federal government announced last week that the Library of Congress will keep an archive of every public tweet made on Twitter.

The move makes total sense, considering the fact that unlike private letters, tweets, by definition, are for public consumption. On last count, some 55 million tweets are sent to Twitter every day. That number is going to rise. Keeping public and historical utility in mind, Twitter, the company, has allowed access to the entire archive of public tweets (some, for strange reasons, are ‘privacy protected’) to the Library of Congress. We guess it’s up to the Library of Congress archivists to decide how to catalogue the whole cosmos of tweets. But with no one getting to know how a young tweeter may turn out to be one day, it’s probably best to archive all the tweets posted ever.

One query: does a tweet from, say, a celebrity that says nothing apart from, “Hd an awsm tme @ Lalit Modi’s aftr match party!” make it to the hallowed pages of history for a future research? Or will the tweechivists only take note of Shashi Tharoor posting, “U folks are the new India. We will ‘be the change’ we wish to see in our country. But not w’out pain!” We prefer the former. But hey, we’re not the Library of Congress.