Saturday, January 7, 2012

Facebook as a time machine

I've just read about an intriguing project from the University of Nevada. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (On Facebook, Librarian Brings 2 Students From the Early 1900s to Life), staff at the university have created Facebook profiles for two former students from 1915. These students died many years ago but their student lives have been recreated on Facebook as a way of giving present day students a glimpse into the university's heritage and student life almost 100 years ago. Facebook user Joe McDonald and his future wife Leola Lewis now "post" updates on their student life based on archive material and have already won a large following.

Relatives were of course consulted before this project got off the ground and Donnelyn Curtis, director of research collections and services at the University of Nevada at Reno, tries to keep their digital lives consistent with reality, as a glimpse at their profiles will show.

“It’s been hard to walk the line between being historically accurate and making it interesting for college students,” she said. To help keep the pair’s virtual personalities consistent, Ms. Curtis composes all of their updates. Mr. McDonald’s favorite activities are boxing and “hanging out with friends,” while Ms. Lewis’ include ranching and shopping.

According to the article they plan to introduce other characters quite soon to create more period interaction. A new Facebook trend in the making perhaps? This is of course not quite in line with what Facebook would like to see. Since the whole point of Facebook is to provide advertisers with information about our habits and preferences the presence of ficticious characters undermines their business concept. How many other examples like this are out there? Can Facebook do anything about it and should they even try? New opportunities open up all the time.


  1. By the way, Facebook has disabled Joe's and Leola's accounts because they violate the terms of service (you must use your real name when creating an account). They may be resurrected in another venue. Thanks for your interest! Donnelyn Curtis

  2. Thanks for the comment. It's a great idea and deserves a future but I'm not surprised at Facebook's action.
    Creativity will win in the end :-)

  3. Facebook should just create another category for this type of profile as they have for memorializing a page of someone who has passed.