The Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania: Using Facebook to Document a Community

Jennie Levine Knies (Penn State Wilkes-Barre) and Melissa R. Meade (Temple University)

In 2013, Temple University PhD candidate Melissa R. Meade started a Facebook page for the Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, to share and curate material relevant to her community-based ethnographic dissertation project. The page has evolved into a place in which community members meet and gather digitally to reflect upon history, memories, culture, and media of the greater Anthracite Region. While Facebook practically serves as an excellent platform for communication, it is not symbiotic for necessary cataloging, searching, and archiving of information. The Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania is a work in progress with endless possibilities. For this talk, we intend to focus on a description of the Facebook page and community, and discuss our attempts to extract data, our ideas of how we might use that data to further scholarship and understanding of the history of the region, and discuss challenges in bridging these divides.

Jennie Levine Knies is the Head Librarian at Penn State, Wilkes-Barre. Prior, she was Manager of Digital Programs and Initiatives at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she supervised the digital repositories and was a principle investigator for Maryland’s National Digital Newspaper Program grant.  She received her MLS from the University of Maryland, with a concentration in archives. She has written papers discussing collaboration with faculty, and has participated in numerous Digital Humanities projects.

Melissa R. Meade’s ethnographic fieldwork in the Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania focuses on the lived experiences of economic and social change, including deindustrialization. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Temple University in Media and Communication and holds a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. Her article “In the Shadow of the Coal Breaker: Cultural Extraction and Digital Dialogical Communication in the Anthracite Coal Mining Region” (in press) appears in a forthcoming issue of Cultural Studies.