Professional associations and the shift from archival activism to designing social archives

As professional archival associations, our main focus is the advocacy for the enhancement of archivists’ and records managers’ working status and social recognition. One way of reaching this goal should be to promote innovative projects that institutional archives cannot address, since they are constrained by political mandates or funding limitations.

On 26 April 2018, a Spanish Court imposed an incredibly light sentence on five men known as “The Wolfpack”, accused of gang-raping a woman. This gave rise to a wave of indignation across the country. Two days later, the journalist Cristina Fallarás published the first tweet under the hashtag #Cuentalo (#ExplainIt), asking women to explain, using the first person, cases of sexual abuse. 2.7 million tweets were created from 28 April to 15 May 2018. At that time, the Catalan Society of Archivists decided to explore a model of social archive, from its capture to its contextualization and diffusion, since we understood that this hashtag was born as a digital community archive, used as a tool of reparation and civic empowerment in the fight against male violence. To attain this final goal, we decided to start by creating a community of practice and work cooperatively with the promoter of the HT, with a data journalist, and with the team of analytic and data visualization of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS).

You can check the first results in the initial website ( The main outputs have been the design of an algorithm for the processing of natural language that has automatized the categorization of the 150,000 original tweets from the HT and the creation of interactive data visualization. In the future, the main challenge will be to test the participatory archival framework that has been built, inviting the producers of tweets to contextualize, appraise and enrich the information that they own and we have captured.

Because, that is precisely where the shift from archival activism to designing the social archive lies: it is not just a matter of technology, but a political and ethical one. Enabling people to obtain archival autonomy should be one of the best contributions that as professionals we can offer in the current context of the infoesphere’s fourth revolution, where all parts of our identity and activity flow through public and private data platforms. Society has turned into an archive so, for the sake of democracy, let’s turn people into their own archivists.

By Vicenç Ruiz Gómez, Vocal de Recerca de l’Associació d’Arxivers-Gestors de Documents de Catalunya, Board member of the Catalan Society of Archivisits and Records Managers @arsnotariae

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