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date: 24 April 2019

The Internet and Social Media as Sources

Summary and Keywords

The Internet and social media increasingly are becoming sources about the African past and present in ways that will influence to some extent how history will be learnt and the form that methods of historical research will take. Social media have increasingly dislodged print journalism as “the first rough draft of history” and tended to democratize and hasten information sharing and communication. Historians are working through difficult debates about the Internet as a source archive, the usability of websites, and related matters. The debate over online resources and their use in historical and other studies on one level remains unresolved. Nevertheless, online sources add another rich layer to narratives, stories, and perspectives that are already being recorded or told, and in this regard they will add to the storehouse of empirical data to be crunched by future historians.

Keywords: Internet, journalism, Twitter, social media, online archives

General Overview

Social media, which if encumbered with its own problems from excessive brevity, narcissism, unreliability, as well as the perpetuation of stereotypes by some users, increasingly has dislodged print journalism as “the first rough draft of history” and has tended to democratize and hasten information sharing and communication about the present and, increasingly, history writing and research. Africa is no different.

Social Media, the Internet, and African History

Journalism has been described as “the first rough draft of history.”1 Increasingly, however, social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, blogs—have taken on that role in documenting social and political life.2 This includes “live” reporting via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram; real-time conversations known as “threads” or “Twitter essays”; and so on. Journalists, under pressure to produce immediate copy in a fast news cycle, increasingly draw on such sources for eyewitness accounts of “breaking news,” and it is not unusual to see news stories sourced this way entirely. More and more, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook break stories first. This is particularly the case when media outlets may have difficulty reaching affected areas or lack contacts among affected groups, as in cases of natural disaster, armed conflict, social movements, or humanitarian crises (the global refugee crisis, for example). In addition, a wide range of people are themselves creating archives, sometimes shaping the work of information professionals (as with journalists) or bypassing them entirely. The result may be that the first draft of history is now being produced on social media. Africa is no exception and historians of Africa (and African historians) are catching on to the potential of the Internet as a source and as an archive of contemporary politics. For example, if previously historians researching, say, elections in Nigeria or Zimbabwe studied such sources as print newspapers and undertook interviews, they can now closely examine copious online newspaper or amateur eyewitness reports including video and audio reports, commentaries, and interviews with participants.

The Internet has democratized access to the past beyond traditional media and political elites or social classes; both in terms of people’s ability to gain access to media but also to participate and contribute in the public sphere as well as tell narratives about their pasts. When King’s College in London began its digitized archive of South African cleric and activist Desmond Tutu’s speeches, letters, writings, and other materials in 2006, historian William Beinart, one of the advisers on the project, noted optimistically to a journalist:

The great advantage of an unedited archive is the opportunity it gives to take a fresh look at the man without a biographer looking over your shoulder to make sure you reach the right conclusions. Usually, trawling an archive means office hours in a strange city, so only the professionals get a look. An online archive will mean that everyone can consult it.3

A large chunk of contemporary archives, including much of the latter part of Tutu’s life for example (including his time as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), are natively digital and to a large extent don’t need to be digitized. In addition, with social media, hashtags and date-stamped content mean that users are doing some of the archivist work for historians. It helps that South Africa has a very active Twitter public sphere, one where the racial and class information inequalities of the press and other offline media are not as easily replicated.

Increasingly libraries and archives embrace the potential of the Internet to reach wider audiences, with access only limited by Internet speed and by having a connection in the first place; “the physical constraints of shelf space and site capacity fall away.”4 One of the first public research and archival institutions to catch onto the potential presented by the Internet as archive, specifically, social media, was the US Library of Congress. Already in 2000, the Library began collecting materials from congressional and presidential campaign websites, legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office, and websites of Members of Congress.5 Then in 2010, Twitter announced it would donate its digital archive of public tweets from its inception in 2006 (numbering in the billions) to the library. At the time, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington captured the significance:

The Twitter digital archive has extraordinary potential for research into our contemporary way of life. This information provides detailed evidence about how technology based social networks form and evolve over time. The collection also documents a remarkable range of social trends. Anyone who wants to understand how an ever-broadening public is using social media to engage in an ongoing debate regarding social and cultural issues will have need of this material.6

Despite the increasing use of social media and the Internet as archives, debates among historians over its value as a source are a relatively recent development. One group of historians are optimistic and excited by the potential as a record of “history-as-it-happens.”7 Among this group, there is optimism that it is “logical to assume that future historians will also look at these sources.”8 Historians could utilize social media and the Internet to research things such as “the first people who reported live from what later became known as the Arab Spring” or what “Barack Obama said on Twitter during an election campaign and how people reacted to that in social media conversations.”9 The second group is less complimentary, citing, among others, problems with data preservation, questions about reliability, the politics of archiving, and access to the Internet. The rise of “fake news,” bots, and cyber warfare as a political strategy to deliberately mislead voters and the public during elections and political and health campaigns adds to the unease over online sources. While large numbers of people use social media platforms like Twitter, they only constitute a small percentage of the world’s population active on social media and thus are not necessarily a representative sample of viewpoints.

Social media platforms have been criticized as “merely fads with limited lifespans.”10 Links to sites go dead, sites go down, and URLs change. Due to factors such as “sources [being] either shutdown, migrated to another domain, or . . . archived and requir[ing] special permissions to access,” information about events such as the Egyptian revolution of 2011 is being lost. As a result, “much of our modern history, from the Arab spring to protests to civil unrests and elections are tweeted-away by hundreds of thousands or millions of users with their smartphones.”11

In some instances, the promised access of web archives doesn’t materialize or enthusiasm for projects fades. In the case of the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive, by 2016 it was not publicly accessible to researchers wishing to study it.12 One year later, in December 2017, the Library announced that beginning January 1, 2018, it would no longer archive every tweet, but only acquire tweets “on a very selective basis.”13 A National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent concluded that selective tweets effectively meant only “thematic and event-based [tweets], including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy.” This sounded very much like Twitter’s already curated “Twitter Moments,” published on the social media platform daily and which present pre-selected tweets by Twitter’s staff summarizing a controversy, news event, or announcement, and which, in effect, would make the Library’s efforts effectively redundant.14

Not surprisingly, for a long while the Library of Congress’s initial receptiveness to social-media-as-archive was an anomaly among institutions like libraries, archives, and history museums, who were collectively wary of the new direction. Some of the reasons cited were major proprietary and copyright challenges arising from illegal use of materials, that social media would undermine the authority of museums, or that people would be discouraged from visiting the physical sites of a museum:

This trend of users creating and contributing to content can be rightfully alarming to institutions seen by their constituents as a voice of authority, like history museums. It seems antithetical to the concept of museums as bastions of expertise and scholarship.15

Nonetheless, even these research organizations and academic peer groups increasingly have no choice but to engage more online. Evidence suggests the benefits of online engagement outweigh such concerns. In the case of museums, the Internet has proven to enhance the experience for visitors as well as those accessing an archive or collection online. For example, “[a] virtual exhibition can incorporate different media, allowing the exhibition development team to re-think the exhibition without the confines of space, security, and conservation limitations.”16 Overall, instead of social media platforms such as Twitter being used by historians as a barometer of significant events and ideas, they will more likely be used to gauge people’s reactions to said events. The study of African history is no different.

Online Sources for African History: Debates

How have these developments played out among African and Africanist historians? In general, historians and other scholars on the continent are quite enthusiastic. As two Nigerian media and communication researchers note optimistically:

Being a mass medium that is not transient, social media can be a repository or archive for African cultural materials thus enabling the sustenance of the culture. Contents on social media are available 24 hours a day; 7 days a week and users have the opportunity of viewing previous content on a site any time. This will mean that social media sites, pages or accounts that are dedicated to African culture displaying—videos, poems, literature, drama, music, images—can be stored and accessed anytime, even in many years to come.17

In early 2001, a group of Africanist historians gathered at the University of Texas at Austin to discuss sources and methods in African history. The result was a 2003 book summarizing the debates and issues of the conference.18 Looking back, it is remarkable that the book does not contain any mention of online source material. Nevertheless, some Africanist historians were thinking about the possibilities for research represented by the Internet around that time. In 2002, the now-late Stephen Ellis, an historian of Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, and South Africa, noted that “accounts of events authored contemporaneously or near-contemporaneously by Africans” and then published on the Internet (among other places) are “one major source of African-generated documentation that is available to historians of recent decades in Africa, providing some sort of corrective to the bias of external sources.”19

Ellis did, however, offer a cautionary note when considering not just contemporary history but also periods much further back in time, adding that this advantage “exists only rarely for those researching the distant African past.” On the other hand, he noted the growing number of African governments creating official websites where they posted government records; while “often bland,” official websites “have the advantage of being authoritative.”20

It is telling, however, that nearly a decade after the University of Texas conference, the 2013 Oxford Handbook of Modern African History’s entry on “Communications and Media in African History” could conclude “only recently have historians begun systematically to research electronic media, and have found . . . that rich documentary and oral evidence survives, offering multiple paths of study.”21 In what was standard at the time, the Handbook entry mentioned Internet and social media only briefly toward the end of the essay after dealing at length with film, radio, and television as archives. Little analysis was offered other than to point out that the “future of these innovative technologies is difficult to predict.”22

Since then, Africanist historians have been more open to the possibilities presented by social media archives. The Internet “provides the avenue for scholars to search for resources without having to excessively rely on the under-equipped libraries mostly seen in developing countries.”23 For example, in a recent study of Barack Obama’s relationship with his late father’s home, Kenya, historians Matthew Carotenuto and Katharine Luongo note that social media provided sources and spaces for challenging misrepresentations of Kenya’s past and present and was an increasingly important space for debating local politics.24

The Internet as an archive comes with its own imbalances. South African historian Premesh Lalu argues that it would be a mistake to treat this archive as value free and not subject to power politics in academia (especially transferring existing sources into digital formats through digitization projects, for example for digital editions).25 Lalu argues that, just as “Apartheid affirmed the idea that the archive was not merely a storehouse of documents but an apparatus placed in the service of racial subjection,” contemporary archives, too, must be seen as implicated by global information and knowledge politics. As a result, Lalu seeks a “re-examination of the intersections of knowledge and power by addressing the question of technology.”26 Archives are not simply repositories of raw material or storehouses of information. According to Lalu, “Most digital initiatives have missed an opportunity of engaging the problematic of the archive that reflects the mounting debates that have unfolded in South Africa about the politics of collecting.” The alliances between universities and international foundations end up placing the emphasis on commodified notions of knowledge. Prior discussions about digitization in the region emphasized the need for it to be driven by “Southern African intellectual priorities” and to enable the expansion of what could be said about the history of liberation struggles. Lalu argues that the latter concern has effectively been ignored.27

Echoing Lalu, Michele Pickover, emeritus curator of manuscripts at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, has argued that the digital medium is “not an uncontested domain--it is a site of struggle.” According to Pickover, the key challenges in digitization are not technological or technical but rather social and political, given that archivists and librarians are active participants in the production of social memory and their appraisal, selection, arrangement, and retention of material cannot help but “privilege certain narratives and silence or marginalize others.”28 Moreover, as Kahn and Tanner observe, content is effectively selected twice, once for inclusion in the archive initially and then again for digitization. Given the politics of memory, they argue that “it is impossible for any archive to claim neutrality or passivity in the act of collecting.”29

Online Sources for African History: Select Examples

A number of projects on the African continent and in the North show the potential of online sources for historians. Many of the most viable and empirically rich online products have originated in the northern hemisphere with its greater financial and technical resources, although there are a growing number of very effective portals in South Africa, ranging from archives and newspapers to sites presenting statistics and biographies. However, that many digital archives of durability and depth in Africa are in South Africa again underlines resource and information inequalities across the continent. There is space in this section only to mention select examples, chosen to represent content showcasing different aspects of the African past or different forms of material. The next section discusses online teaching resources for African history.

One of the most prominent portals in the field of anti-apartheid and African liberation movement archives is The African Activist Archive, a project of Michigan State University (MSU), “an online archive of primary materials—documents, photographs, artifacts, and written and oral memories—of 50 years of activist organizing in the United States in solidarity with African struggles against colonialism, apartheid, and injustice.”30 What is particularly interesting about this site is the grassroots nature of the many organizations and individuals represented and the shoestring budget involved, testifying to the dedicated work of the chief architects of the project, David Wiley, Chris Root, and Richard Knight, although they could rely on the long-term support of the MSU African Studies Center. Another interesting aspect has been the conscious scouring of the country for hidden or neglected archives and bringing them together. Placing select content online has attracted further donors of archives, testifying to the power of coordinated collecting.31

Other projects in a similar vein include Digital Innovation South Africa (DISA) and Aluka. DISA (previously Digital Imaging Project South Africa) has created an online resource of primary sources related to the struggle for liberation. Among material scanned were letters, archives, periodicals, photographs, and ephemera from several South African repositories. This is essentially a South African project but with additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A wider regional focus on liberation struggles in Southern Africa developed with the related US-based project, Aluka, which formed national committees of historians, archivists, and librarians in several countries, such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and which resulted in the digitization of such materials as parts of Terence Ranger’s papers and interviews of Jean Penvenne with Mozambican women. Eventually, part of the DISA content was folded into the US Aluka portal, now hosted by digital library database JSTOR. Historians were involved in both DISA and Aluka. The Aluka project has come in for some criticism from South African historians and archivists. Premesh Lalu has argued the project has been oblivious to the issues surrounding the place and function of the archive in Southern Africa and there has been no analysis of the relationship between power, knowledge, and technology. The involvement of academics in the project, he claims, “was largely restricted to doing the spade-work even though many South African academics were deeply engaged in a discussion about the future and public status of archives at the time.”32 Both the African Activist Archive and DISA are open access, while Aluka is behind a paywall, but all three projects have put online a large amount of primary source material.

Beyond the empirical evidence being adduced online in such projects and many others, digitization can also articulate cultural or historical traits of a people or place. Three case studies of the digitization of library and archival material in Africa are held up by Kahn and Tanner as exemplary of small collections that speak to national and cultural identities. The Digital Bleek and Lloyd archive, digitized by the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Curating the Archive, is an archive of late-19th-century indigenous narratives and artworks produced in Cape Town between two white researchers and twenty-odd Xam and !Kun (collectively San) prisoners. The Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music Archive is a “multi-media archive and resource center for traditional, popular and art music, recited word, dances and stories and recollections of musicians and dancers of Uganda.”33 The District Notebooks Collection in the National Archives of Zambia is a collection of reports compiled by British colonial-era district commissioners and details aspects of regional government in Northern Rhodesia (later Zambia), the first of the collection of the archives to be digitized, although only available on site at the archive.34

African identities online are evident in other ways. Liz Timbs, based on her work on online Zulu identities, contends that “the Internet stands as the next generation of print capitalism; a forum for the expression of and shared understanding of a community.”35 Timbs outlines how Zulu identities are not fixed in either the analog or digital worlds, or subject to the politics of archives, but organically made on social media. Historians, Timbs argues, must take heed of their presence in the digital realm in order to keep up with how the digital realm are shifting and changing. She argues

there is an ‘imagined’ digital Zulu community (many of them, in fact) and . . . given this reality, historians must realize that contemporary Zulu identity discourse is inherently wrapped up in the digital, necessitating a shift in perspective for historians hoping to chart the contemporary manifestations of this centuries old debate.

Timbs points out that since the early 2000s, there have been major gains in terms of the presence of indigenous African languages online. Many of these language resources, however, such as online dictionaries and Google Translate, are problematic in that they were “conceived, developed, and operated by non-native speakers.” Most digitized materials relating to Zulu history are in the form of oral histories, such as in the Killie Campbell Africana Library Oral History, Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work, African Oral Narratives, and Inanda Seminary Oral History projects.36

One project that attempts “to place ownership of Zulu knowledge online squarely in the hands” of isiZulu speakers, Timbs notes, is the Ulwazi Program, developed by the eThekwini (Durban) Municipality and libraries “to preserve the indigenous knowledge of local communities” through a digital library to which locals contribute. Social media, open source technology, and mobile technology are pivotal to the project: “The power of mobile technology has the potential to put communities in a position to preserve and manage their own indigenous knowledge in an environment that is sustained through local government structures on the one hand and through global technology developments on the other.”37 Such dovetailing of the local with the global, using online carriers, as we observed also for the African Activist Archive, is likely to produce rich narratives of value to historians.

Timbs contends that despite the fascinating content on the Ulwazi site, “by far the most interesting Zulu language debate is occurring not in these educational forums, but rather on social media.” Zulu speakers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram “are adapting these forums to their own needs, far beyond any level of custodianship.” Social media potentially acts to “crystallize nationalist sentiment and foster the formation of imagined communities,” just as print capitalism did. Timbs concludes, “there is no doubt that the digital realm has opened new spaces for debates over Zulu-ness to a broader constituency than . . . previously. . . . Historians must take these shifts into consideration in their understanding of the contemporary ‘imagined community’ of [Zuluness] in the analog and digital realms.”

In many ways, this relates back to our earlier discussion of social media: isiZulu speakers are active on social media and on cell phones, and if historians are to capture and understand a myriad of vernacular narratives over time, they need to engage with, preserve, and interpret such discourses, including those present in new media. In turn, to transmit their findings to students or indeed to join with their students in new research and discussions, historians of Africa need to engage with online teaching resources.

Online Learning and Teaching Resources: Africa Is a Country and South African History Online

In terms of online teaching resources (as opposed to, say, archival-based research), two of the most useful for historians—and their students—are scholarly but publicly focused blogs such as Africa Is a Country and South African History Online (SAHO). In 2009 Africa Is a Country, a site of media criticism, analysis, and new writing, was founded by Sean Jacobs, who continues to edit the blog with an editorial board and collective that includes several historians. Started as a response to ahistorical, decontextualized portrayals and debates about Africa, its people, and their place in the world, Africa Is a Country went from the margins of academia, journalism, and the literary world—where people used to scoff at writing for blogs—to a position where it is now standard practice for many academics and journalists to cite or reference these kinds of writing and where universities more often formally acknowledge such work. Africa Is a Country helps connect historians to a wider public and to current events and allows them to point their students to that challenge mass media stereotypes of Africans and the past and present.38 In an era when students in many African countries turn to social media both as a news source and a tool for change (including the decolonization of educational systems), Africa Is a Country is well geared to resonate with, comment on, or reflect such desires.39 As part of “actually existing” global public spheres that are sites of contestation in which some social media “replicate and reinforce the dominant racist, sexist, capitalist power,” Africanist social media such as Africa Is a Country challenge these stereotypes. By bringing into mainstream discourse knowledge produced by a diversity of authors and viewpoints not always articulated within the academy, such sites widen and democratize debates about the African past and present, bringing to the table more texts for future historians to interpret.40

For historian Trevor Getz, “Africa Is a Country is the first place I suggest students turn when they want to understand some event in the news from beyond the accepted media narratives.” This blog, and the audio podcast Africa Past and Present, Getz concludes, are most useful learning tools for African history, providing insights into the historians behind their historiography, though there are scant effective digital teaching tools. Getz also draws attention to how other social media such as YouTube provide access to African-produced material. Some videos provide interesting ways to complicate or bring into question key narratives. For example, YouTube videos of Ugandan views on the Kony 2012 campaign can be useful to think about that series of events. Historical pieces from African television channels and music videos can also be thought provoking. In addition, Getz points to the potential of comments posted below YouTube videos to help viewers understand contemporary debates over historical events.41

SAHO, founded in 2000 by Omar Badsha, a former trade unionist and documentary photographer, describes itself as a “non-partisan people’s history institution” created “to address the biased way in which South Africa’s history and heritage, as well as the history and heritage of Africa is represented in our educational and cultural institutions.” Claiming to be the “largest online history website on the continent,” the website features text (including e-books of such important works as The Unesco General History of Africa and the Carter-Karis collection of published primary sources), audio, video, and primary sources, with particular strengths in South African biography (numbering some seven thousand entries). The website presents a wide range of articles, books, photographs, and documents. It also includes timelines and other pedagogical tools, which explains its continuing appeal to history schoolteachers and learners. It is easy to navigate and its search function works well.

History and history teaching are contested, and SAHO broadens what South Africans (or those interested in South Africa) learn about the country’s history. The bias is toward liberation history and resistance history. There has been some criticism that SAHO is too close to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and serves to distort the past and elevate the role of the ANC in South African history. One critic, Dale McKinley, claimed SAHO silenced parts of South Africa’s liberation that did not fall under the ANC’s broad umbrella. In response, Badsha denied any government influence over his project.42 Another criticism is that some articles are written by students, some in North America, and lack depth. Nevertheless, SAHO has a commitment, breadth, and reach showing how online archives can take history to schools and to the wider public.

The Future

The debate over online resources and their use in historical and other studies on one level remains unresolved. Digital divides between Africa and the global North persist. However, the diversity of voices and the democratization of online spaces created are obvious benefits of the Internet and social media. At another level, online sources add another rich layer to narratives, stories, and perspectives that are already being recorded or told, and in this regard they will add to the storehouse of empirical data to be crunched by future historians. At the same time, online sources offer something different, whether they offer alternative narratives or deeper, more complex understandings of history. A related debate is around whether such archives and sources simply serve to recreate and reinforce existing power dynamics versus their potential to disrupt these. In this regard, Pickover’s point about the social and political challenges of digitization remains very germane. In addition, there are continuing issues around the constantly evolving nature of the Internet and social media as sources of historical research, with attendant problems such as outdated links, dead sites, and information overload. One final point is that it is clear that online archives have not fulfilled their full potential yet.

Further Reading

Getz, Trevor. A Primer for Teaching African History: Ten Design Principles. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.Find this resource:

Isaacman, Allen, Premesh Lalu, and Thomas Nygren. “Digitization, History and the Making of a Postcolonial Archive of Southern African Liberation Struggles: The Aluka Project.” Africa Today 52, no. 2 (2005): 55–77.Find this resource:

Kahn, Rebecca, and Simon Tanner. “Building Futures: The Role of Digital Collections in Shaping National Identity in Africa.” In African Studies in the Digital Age: DisConnects?. Edited by Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace, 111–127. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

Lalu, Premesh. “The Virtual Stampede for Africa: Digitalization, Postcoloniality and Archives of the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa.” Innovation 34 (2007): 28–44.Find this resource:

Limb, Peter, Richard Knight, and Christine Root. “The Global Antiapartheid Movement: A Critical Analysis of Archives and Collections.” Radical History Review 119 (2014): 161–177.Find this resource:

SalahEldeen, Hany M., and Michael L. Nelson. “Losing My Revolution: How Many Resources Shared on Social Media Have Been Lost.” Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries 7489 (2012): 125–137.Find this resource:

Timbs, Liz. “Shifting Representations of Zulu Identities, From Analog to Digital.” Southern Africa Digital History Journal (2017).Find this resource:

Weller, Katrin, and Axel Bruns. “Twitter as a First Draft of the Present: And the Challenges of Preserving It for the Future.” In WebSci ’16: Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Web Science. Hannover, Germany, 183–189.Find this resource:


(1.) Jack Shafer, “Who Said It First? Journalism Is ‘The First Draft of History’,” Slate, August 10, 2010.

(2.) Katrin Weller and Axel Bruns, “Twitter as a First Draft of the Present: And the Challenges of Preserving It for the Future,” in WebSci ’16: Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Web Science, Hannover, Germany, 183–189.

(3.) Nick Jackson, “Desmond Tutu’s Life Goes Online,” The Independent, September 14, 2006.

(4.) Rebecca Kahn and Simon Tanner, “Building Futures: The Role of Digital Collections in Shaping National Identity in Africa,” in African Studies in the Digital Age: DisConnects?, ed. Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014), 111–127.

(5.) Vicki Coleman, “Social Media as a Primary Source: A Coming of Age,” Educause Review, December 6, 2013.

(6.) Library of Congress, “Twitter Donates Entire Tweet Archive to Library of Congress,” April 15, 2010.

(7.) Coleman, “Social Media as a Primary Source.”

(8.) Jason Steinhauer, “Preserving Social Media for Future Historians,” Library of Congress, July 24, 2015.

(9.) Steinhauer, “Preserving Social Media.”

(10.) Coleman, “Social Media as a Primary Source.”

(11.) David Okwii, “Does Social Media Help Africans Destroy or Record Their History,”, December 16, 2014. See also Hany M. SalahEldeen and Michael L. Nelson, “Losing My Revolution: How Many Resources Shared on Social Media Have Been Lost,” Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries 7489 (2012): 125–137.

(12.) Weller and Bruns, “Twitter as a First Draft,” 184.

(13.) Laurel Wamsley, “Library of Congress Will No Longer Archive Every Tweet,” National Public Radio, December 26, 2017.

(14.) Wamsley, “Library of Congress.”

(15.) Tim Grove, “New Media and the Challenges for Public History,” Perspectives on History 45, no. 5 (May 1, 2009).

(16.) Grove, “New Media.”

(17.) Margaret Solo-Aneato and Babafemi Jacobs, “Exploring Social Media as Channels for Sustaining African Culture,” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 5, no. 4.1 (April 2015): 37–42.

(18.) Toyin Falola and Christian Jennings, eds., Sources and Methods in African History: Spoken Worth Unearthed (Suffolk: Boydel and Brewer, 2004).

(19.) Stephen Ellis, “Writing Histories of Contemporary Africa,” Journal of African History 43, no. 1 (2002): 1–26.

(20.) Ellis, “Writing Histories,” 15.

(21.) James Brennan, “Communications and Media in African History,” in Oxford Handbook of Modern African History, ed. John Parker and Richard Reid (Oxford, 2013), 498.

(22.) Brennan, “Communications and Media,” 505.

(23.) Opeoluwa Eluwole, Nsima Udoh, and Olugbenga Ojoh, “The Impact of Internet on African Education and Culture,” International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology 4, no. 3 (2014): 75.

(24.) Matt Carotenuto and Katharine Luongu, Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and Politics of Belonging (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016), 154–156.

(26.) Lalu, “Virtual Stampede,” 31.

(27.) Lalu, “Virtual Stampede,” 34–45.

(28.) Michele Pickover, “Negotiations, Contestations and Fabrications: The Politics of Archives in South Africa Ten Years after Democracy,” Innovation 30 (2005): 1–11, cited in Kahn and Tanner, “Building Futures,” 115.

(29.) Kahn and Tanner, “Building Futures,” 118.

(30.) African Activist Archive. See also William Minter and Gail Hovey, No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists Over Half a Century, 1950–2000 (Africa World Press, 2007); and Harry Garaba and Patrick Ngulube, “Moving with the Times in Search of Permanence: The Digitization of ‘Liberation Struggle’ Archives in Southern Africa,” Historia 55, no. 2 (2010): 163–181.

(34.) Kahn and Tanner, “Building Futures,” 118, 125; and Chrispin Hamooya and Benson Njobvu, “Digitization of Archival Materials: The Case of National Archives of Zambia,” ESARBICA Journal 29 (2010): 234–247.

(35.) Liz Timbs, “Shifting Representations of Zulu Identities, From Analog to Digital,” Southern Africa Digital History Journal (2017). This article is also interesting in that it was written for a graduate-level course in digital South African history.

(36.) Timbs, “Shifting Representations.”

(37.) Elizabeth Greyling and Niall McNulty, “How to Build an Indigenous Digital Library through Community Participation: The Case of the Ulwazi Program” (paper presented at the Indigenous Knowledge Technology Conference, Windhoek, Namibia, November 2–4, 2011), cited in Timbs, “Shifting Representations.”

(38.) In 2018, a contribution to the blog, “Fear of a Black France” by Grégory Pierrot helped shape public debates about French political identity.

(39.) In particular, #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall in South Africa.

(40.) Sean Jacobs, “Emergent African Digital Identities: The Story behind ‘Africa is a Country,’” Journal of African Media Studies 7, no. 3 (2015): 345–357, 357; and Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text 25–26 (1990): 56–80.

(42.) Dale McKinley, “Distorting the Past to Suit the Powerful,” The Mercury, April 8, 2010; and Omar Badsha, “South Africa History Online Not a Government Project,” The Mercury, April 13, 2010.