Monday, October 21, 2013

Storify: The Future of "Primary Documents"

History has always depended on "primary documents"--the words and artifacts of the people who were actually there when important things happened. History in the digital age is no different. We want to get at the source of everything, find the hub of activity online. Thanks to hypertext, it's no easier than ever to jump through the rabbit hole of references back to the "primary document" of anything on the internet--the original YouTube video, the original Tweet, the original Facebook post. Storify is a service that plays to this ability and helps you curate digital primary documents into a "story."

Screenshot of the landing page for Storify

With Storify, you can embed elements from pretty much anywhere on the internet--Tweets, posts, pictures, links, etc.--so that everything you find relevant to a topic is on one place. You can then frame this info with your own text to make a kind of essay on the topic with sources embedded rather than just sited. This makes writing about people and events that the normal mass media couldn't pick up very well a lot easier, because anyone can have a voice. Here's an interesting example about what happened when a Florida student posted a picture of himself with his teacher in the background having contractions in school and how the internet reacted (both positively and negatively).

But on the side of the stories themselves is a very interesting feature of Storify that could potentially be a very useful sort of crowdsourced curation. When you search a term on Storify, you get a list of stories made on the topic, but also a group called "most popular elements." This shows you the media that is most often associated with that search term across all the stories published on Storify, resulting in a prioritized list of what other people have found most important to a certain topic. This is a very interesting kind of search engine that could be leaps and bounds ahead of Google because it's based on what people find most important to a topic, and it links directly to the primary source. I will continue to explore and let you guys know what else I find.