Paper Project Proposal — Social Media at the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest 2016

In 2016, thousands gathered near the Standing Rock Reservation, protesting the construction of a pipeline that would carry oil between North Dakota and Illinois.

The “black snake” (used in direct correlation between Plains Indian religious beliefs and the crude black oil traveling through the pipeline) would cross into the Sioux Nation (the overall name given to the many reservations in the area that share similar linguistic roots). The protest was just as much about environmental concerns as it was about Native sovereignty.

This is a map showing where the pipeline cut through native lands

Social media was an incredibly important part to the protest, as it allowed for protestors to share their support and spread the word. By looking at the social media tag #NoDAPL,” I would be drawing conclusions about the usefulness of social media in the protest as a digital presence of the protest. Additionally, I will be considered what people are posting under the tag, what they are trying to get across through that post, and how others interact with the post.

Using social media as a basis for research comes with its problems. It’s definitely not a traditional history archive, but it can provide us with tons of information since social media is so much part of our lives in the twenty-first century currently. We use it to tell others what we are doing in our lives. We use it to leave a digital signature that we existed. We use it to talk with others, stretching our voices across the air in ways we could not do in the centuries past. Of course, we must consider the biases of these posts, taking into consideration who is posting it, the motives these individuals had for being a part of the digital presence of the protest.

I’ll be using these following social media websites to look at the use of the hashtag:

  1. Facebook (+16,000 posts)
  2. Instagram (+550,000 posts)
  3. Twitter (unknown exactly — explains more here)

Just looking at these numbers, it would be an absolute adventure going through every single post, but considering the amount of time I have to work on this– I will only be looking at the ones at the very top of the pages. Most social media sites use an algorithm that pushes the popular posts to the top of the page. This will help me to see what most people are seeing and talking about. By also looking at the most popular, it will give me a better idea as to what the face of the digital presence of the protest looks like.

Lastly, it may be interesting to also consider the legacy of the protest in the digital world. It has been several years since the protest, with only recently there being a pause to the construction. The “black snake” however continues to slither through the Sioux Nation.

Crowd-Sourcing Jasenovac: Wikipedia as Memory and the Production of the Past

Our discussion about crowdsourcing really got me thinking about the construction of historically memory online and what influence this memory has on historical narratives and national identity. My project proposal below digs into that a little deeper and I look forward to hearing any comments or suggestions you all might have!

In 2018, popular online magazine Balkan Insight reported historical revisionism found in Croatian Wikipedia’s article on Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Jasenovac was the concentration and death camp where at least 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, and anti-fascist political prisoners were executed and/or interned by the Ustaše– a Croatian proto-fascist, ultra-nationalist, Nazi collaborationist organization that ruled the Independent State of Croatia from 1941-1945. These news articles showed that Croatian Wikipedia misrepresented the nature of Jasenovac and the Ustaše and omitted facts crucial to understanding the crimes committed there, sparking outrage among Serbs, Jews, and other representative groups.

As an open-source, community-built space, Wikipedia functions as a public venue where Serbs and Croats engage with their contested past. Examining their representations of Jasenovac and the Ustaše grants insight into public memory of the Second World War and the Holocaust in Serbia and Croatia that exists beyond official memory and suggests its influence on contemporary conceptions of national identity. Using J.M. Winter’s idea of “collective remembrance” and Benedict Anderson’s framework of imagined communities, this paper assess how Wikipedia has become a forum for the cultivation of historical memory in Serbia and Croatia in the post-Yugoslav era.[1] As numerous scholars have found, contested memory surrounding the Ustaše and Jasenovac occupies a distinct space in ongoing animosities among Serbs and Croats. Their studies, however, have generally only examined official spaces of memory like commemorations, museum exhibitions, political rhetoric, international criminal courts and other politically charged sites of memory.[2]

         Wikipedia articles are built on three policies: users cannot contribute original research, they must provide a neutral point of view, and all information must be verifiable (cited secondary sources are preferred.) ‘Neutrality’ on Wikipedia is loosely specified and generally regulated by other users and site administrators, while the quality of information users contribute to Wikipedia is not held to any precise standard. This paper thus uses Croatian and Serbian Wikipedia to examine the narratives of Jasenovac and the Ustaše contributors have crafted. It considers what elements of these narratives are left out and how they are positioned within each framework of national history. It further traces the evolution of these pages to determine how these narratives have developed over time and examines the interactions and points of debate among contributors to further grasp what elements of Jasenovac and Ustaše memory are of greatest concern and why. Placing this study within existing literature ultimately reveals conflicts and continuity within the existing memory framework and its place in current conceptions of Serbian and Croatian identity.

[1] Jay Winter, Remembering War: The Great War Between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 3-5; Benedic Anderson, Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Press, 1991).

[2] Lilijana Radonić, “Croatia – Exhibiting Memory and History at the ‘Shores of Europe,’” Culture Unbound 3 (2011): 355-367,; Rob Van Der Laarse, “Beyond Auschwitz? Europe’s Terrorscapes in the Age of Post-Memory,” Memory and Post-War Memorials: Confronting the Violence of the Past, ed. Marc Silberman and Florence Vatan, (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), 71-92; Stipe Odak and Andriana Benčić, “Jasenovac- A Past That Does Not Pass: The Presence of Jasenovac in Croatian and Serbian Collective Memory Conflict,” Eastern European Politics, Societies, and Cultures 30 (2016), 805-829; Heike Karge, “Mediated Remembrance: Local Practices of Remembering the Second World War in Tito’s Yugoslavia,” European Review of History 16 (2009): 49-62; Đurašković, Stevo. “National Identity-Building and the ‘Ustaša-Nostalgia’ in Croatia: The Past That Will Not Pass.” Nationalities Papers 44, no. 5 (2016): 772–788.