Program - Cathy Marshall

Cathy Marshall
Microsoft Research


Whose content is it anyway? Social media, personal data, and the fate of our digital legacy


User-contributed content forms the cornerstone of today's Web; most popular services and resources-e.g. Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, Yelp, and even MMRPGs-rely on it. This content plays an essential role in peoples' intellectual, emotional, and social lives and is fast becoming an important part of the historical record. Yet it is difficult for individuals to curate their own digital content. Why is it so challenging for us to maintain our digital legacy, and what should we do about it? I'll sort out empirical evidence from a number of studies that illustrates the challenges of personal digital archiving-challenges that arise from the nature of digital material, from existing practices, from the rise of social media and the complexities of ownership-and explore the implications of these challenges for libraries and other institutions.


Cathy Marshall is a principal researcher at the MSR Silicon Valley Lab. Her current research is on personal information management and on the ownership, reuse, and control of social media. Cathy came to Microsoft in 2000 to work on e-books after many years at Xerox PARC, where she strayed from her roots in computer science after being indelibly transformed by working with anthropologists, humanists, information scientists, and hypertext fiction writers. She is the author of Reading and Writing the Electronic Book, a book that takes a close look at reading and annotation, and how they're changing in a digital age. Cathy's personal homepage ( is a good place to find a comprehensive list of her publications, new media commentary, blog, and twitter feed; additional information is also available on her Microsoft Research page,