First Blog Data Archived at FSD
Liisa Avelin, Master of Education from Kotka, is preparing a dissertation on cultural history at the University of Turku. Her dissertation studies the disco culture in Karhula in the 1960s and 1970s. She has deposited her data, a blog, at the FSD.
- The blog about the disco club "Kåren Kellari" covers a lot of memory-based data, and also a lot of data which I could not use in my research. It would have been a pity not to grant access to the data to other researchers who may benefit from it. I also had to provide access to the data for the evaluators of my dissertation, Liisa Avelin says.
Since using blog as a means of collecting data is a novelty in Finland, teachers and students interested in the method can benefit from the data and from the method of collecting memory-based data through a blog.
- For researchers interested in youth culture, Finnish baby-boomers' lives or popular music, the data offer authentic viewpoints and commentaries from contemporaries, Avelin says.
- The blog data are built on 45 loosely-defined themes. The weekly summaries I published on the blog give the reader some indication of what the study is about. These summaries structure the vast data and make its interpretation easier for the reader, Avelin says.
Significance of "Kåren Kellari" for contemporaries
Liisa Avelin's research theme encompasses the importance of the disco club "Kåren Kellari" (founded in 1969) for young people who lived in Karhula in the 1960s and 1970s. Liisa Avelin started the blog specifically for collecting data, because she believed it to be the best way to find the people she wanted to interview, as they had been scattered all over the world. The blog was active from February to December 2006, and it offered a forum for the people of Kåre to reminisce collectively about the past.
- Reminiscing through a blog is not different from recalling the past in some other way. It can be an entertaining experience, an act of storytelling, as well as part of everyday interaction between people, which helps to maintain and form new friendships, to quote Taina Ukkonen. A blog is always interactive and public in nature, and features such as discourse and communality are characteristic to it. Traditional diaries do not have these features, Avelin points out.
In Avelin's blog, most of the discussion was about music, which either highlights the importance of music for people all the way from youth to middle-age, or it may indicate that the blog attracted especially active consumers of music. The writers told of their first record purchases, bands they started, and what music was played in "Kåren Kellari". In this way, the blog produced a great deal of material for example for music researchers.
- Another topic which interested the blog writers was alcohol consumption and the way young people experimented with it. The alcohol reminiscences covered the time prior to 1969, when it became legal to sell beer in grocery shops, and the time from early to mid-1970s, Avelin says.
A third popular topic, first loves, offers emotional data about the relationship insecurities of both girls and boys. In addition, there were also plenty of data that did not fit into any of the three major themes. The blog discussions probed topics such as the atmosphere of "Kåren Kellari", friends, life in Karhula, the youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s, and blog as a data collection method.
Reflection of people's values
Liisa Avelin hopes that whoever studies the data takes into consideration that the blog, which was originally created for research purposes, became a forum for other activities as well. On the blog, people reconnected with old friends they thought they had lost. It was a place where people met new friends, networked, reminisced and shared memories, fell in love, yearned for someone, suffered from sleepless nights, got frustrated, shared words of sympathy, and relieved depression. In other words, the blog writers opened up to each other like good friends.
- What was characteristic of the blog discussion was that at times it drifted far away from the weekly theme of the blog. Sometimes it was the discussion itself and interaction with others that seemed to be the most important thing. Occasionally, deviations from the weekly theme produced data that were especially interesting from the researcher's point of view. Going to the disco in one's youth and the memories related to it were the connective elements for the people commenting on the blog, and therefore the comments can be seen to reflect the values of my target population, Avelin reasons.
Researcher found data archive
Avelin was worried about the archiving of the blog data used in her thesis until she found the solution in the FSD. One option would have been to convert the data into a text document and complement it with paper documentation, but then the richness of the blog discussion and the context of the study that is important from the methodological point of view would have been lost. Avelin valued the idea of archiving the electronic blog in its original form. She was even worried about the valuable data simply disappearing into cyberspace.
- I participated in a seminar called "Historical research and electronic data" organised by the Department of History at the University of Turku in February 2007. One of the speakers was Jussi Nuorteva, the head of the Finnish National Archives Service. In the seminar discussions, it turned out that it might be possible to archive the blog data at the FSD. It was the first time I had ever even heard of the data archive. I contacted the FSD and things were set in motion, Avelin says.
Avelin thinks that blogs in general could be more often archived for reuse, as long as the ethical principles are taken into consideration. She sees no barriers to archiving, providing the researcher has originally informed the blog commentators regarding the future reuse of the blog comments and gained their consent for the publication of the data.
» Blogs are websites which are updated regularly so that the new material is placed at the top of the page. People who publish blogs are called bloggers. They update the discussion forums online by writing texts for their blogs and publishing them for others to comment. Bloggers are responsible for the content and legality of their blogs.
Archiving Blog Took Only Few Hours
Liisa Avelin's blog is the first website archived at the FSD. The blog, which was about the disco club "Kåren Kellari", appears to the user exactly as it appeared when it was published. It was converted to static web pages by an FSD employee Sami Granstedt.
- I had to archive altogether 48 weekly summaries and 4,700 comments. It took me only a few hours to archive the FSD's first ever blog data, Sami Granstedt calculates.
The blog data deposited by Liisa Avelin have been archived in text format and as static web pages. Therefore, dynamic search functions cannot be performed on the data. Re-users of the data will receive both the static web pages and the weekly blog summaries in text format.
According to Sami Granstedt, a re-user of the blog data should take into account that in 10-20 years web browsers may not display the material as it was displayed in Liisa Avelin's original blog.
Granstedt thinks that blog data are relatively easy to archive. His recommendation is to begin planning the archiving of the blog data already when creating a blog. When it is complete, the contents can be saved for long-term preservation. The blog administrator should also create categories for discussion topics in order to help future re-users to find the information they are interested in after the blog has been archived.