The Ferguson Principles

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today here in Wellington. For the next few minutes I’m going to be talking about the efforts of the Documenting the Now project to build a community of practice around social media archiving. For Lave & Wenger (1991) a community of practice is a way of understanding how groups of people learn, by sharing skills and tools in relationship with each other, and in their daily lived experience. I think the best of what IIPC has to offer is as a community of practice.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge Ueniversity Press.


Factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost; at the same time, it does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and in intellectual activity. Even the lightening of the labour becomes an instrument of torture, since the machine does not free the worker from the work, but rather deprives the work itself of all content. Every kind of capitalist production, in so far as it is not only a labour process but also capital’s process of valorization, has this in common, but it is not the worker who employs the conditions of his work, but rather the reverse, the conditions of work employ the worker. However it is only with the coming of machinery that this inversion first acquires a technical and palpable reality.

Marx (1990), p. 548

Marx, K. (1990). Capital: A critigue of political economy (Vol. 1). London: Penguin.


Just a quick note that this site is now on the distributed web using dat. If you have Beaker Browser or the dat client you can find it here:


From Cohen (2007) which I ran across in Passi & Jackson (2017):

Cohen, M. D. (2007). Reading Dewey: Reflections on the study of routine. Organization Studies, 28(5), 773–786.

Passi, S., & Jackson, S. (2017). Data vision: Learning to see through algorithmic abstraction. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 2436–2447). ACM.

Humans in Loops

This is just a quick note about another excellent piece from Nick Seaver on why it’s useful, and necessary, to study algorithms ethnographically or anthropologically.

#HistorianSignBunny: Top 50

Over the weekend I happened to notice several witty and insightful tweets floating by in my timeline with the #HistorianSignBunny hashtag. Each tweet containined a little ASCII art bunny holding a sign, which itself contained a short statement about history. For example:

Thanks EDGI!

TLDR; I created a small command line utility waybackprov to help try to understand who is doing all the work of deciding what needs to get archived from the web … like Pruitt’s (now deleted) Twitter timeline.

Omeka Staticify with 👜🕸

If you have some old Omeka sites that are still valuable resources, but are no longer being actively maintained, you might want to consider converting them to a static site and archiving the PHP code and database. This means that the site can stay online in much the form that it’s in now, at the same URLs, and you still have the code and database to bring it back if you want to. From a maintenance perspective this is a big win since you no longer have the problem of keeping the PHP, Omeka and MySQL code up to date and backed up. The big trade off is that the site becomes truly static. Making any changes across the static assets would be quite tedious. So only consider this if you really anticipate that the project is no longer being actively curated.


Peasantries with long experience of on-the-ground statecraft have always understood that the state is a recording, registering, and measuring machine. So when a government surveyor arrives with a plane table, or census takers come with their clipboards and questionnaires to register households, the subjects understand that trouble in the form of conscription, forced labor, land seizures, head taxes, or new taxes on croplands cannot be far behind. They understand implicitly that behind the coercive machinery lie piles of paperwork: lists, documents, tax rolls, population registers, regulations, requisitions, orders—paperwork that is for the most part mystifying and beyond their ken. The firm identification in their minds between paper documents and the source of their oppressions has meant that the first act of many peasant rebellions has been to burn down the local records office where these documents are housed. Grasping the fact that the state saw its land and subjects through record keeping, the peasantry implicitly assumed that blinding the state might end their woes.

Scott (2017), p. 120

Scott, J. C. (2017). Against the grain: A deep history of the earliest states. Yale University Press.

Memory Sites

I recently got around to reading Pierre Nora’s classic paper about history and memory, which archivists like to cite because of his claim that modern memory is archival (Nora, 1989). The paper is actually an English translation of the introduction to his massive three volume work Les Lieux de Mémoire. I thought I’d include the full quote here to make a few comments:

Nora, P. (1989). Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire. Representations, 7–24.