Lost in the Infinite Archive

Zooming to Infinity Tdadamemd - File:Square-InfinitelyQuartered.jpg CC BY-SA 3.0

Zooming to Infinity
Tdadamemd – File:Square-InfinitelyQuartered.jpg
CC BY-SA 3.0

« In this paper, “Lost in the Infinite Archive,” I explore what the future of digital methods for historians will be when they need to explore web archives. Historical research of periods beginning in the mid-1990s will need to use web archives, and right now we are not ready. This article draws on first-hand research with the Internet Archive and Archive-It web archiving teams. It draws upon three exhaustive datasets: the large Web ARChive (WARC) files that make up Wide Web Scrapes of the Web; the metadata-intensive WAT files that provide networked contextual information; and the lifted-straight-from-the-web guerilla archives generated by groups like Archive Team. Through these case studies, we can see – hands-on – what richness and potentials lie in these new cultural records, and what approaches we may need to adopt. It helps underscore the need to have humanists involved at this early, crucial stage ».

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Lost in the Infinite Archive: The Promise and Pitfalls of Web Archives

Citation Information. Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 78-94, ISSN 1753-8548, Available Online March 2016 .

Tools for collecting social media archives

Following a conversation on the Association Of Internet Researchers (AOIR)’s mailing-list, the SocialMediaLab (developed at the Australian National University) package emerges as a tool for collecting data on social media platforms for virtual ethnography analysis, among other types of analysis.


Although the handling of this software suite requires some basis in programming, the authors have written an « Absolute Beginner’s » guide for SocialMediaLab.


Proposition d’un groupe de travail W3C : Web Archivability Community Group

En discussion, la création d’un nouveau groupe W3C pour dégager les meilleurs pratiques à destination des développeurs et concepteurs Web pour la préservation des sites, en utilisant des outils d’archivage Web dédié. Un projet antérieur de la bibliothèque de Stanford avait déjà proposé des guides pratiques pour « l’archivabilité » des sites Web.


Time(s) and materiality of the Internet discussed at IR16 Phoenix / Part 1

aoir-ir16I am attending the sixteenth conference of the Association for Internet Researchers (IR16) In Phoenix, Arizona. My primary objective here is to co-chair and present in a panel which seeks to build bridges between science and technology studies (STS) approaches and Internet governance research; however, I have been delighted to attend at least two panels whose topics closely intertwine with the goals of the Web90 project: “timing” and “material”.

In the first panel, Timing, which took place on Wednesday 22 October, contributors explored how time – its unfolding, “instantness”, subjective understandings – affect our perceptions of digital tools and their objectives. Sarah Munoz-Bates, from Arizona State University, in “Instant Results with Lingering Effects”, examined the ways in which Google can bias searchers into privileging one set of terms over the other when looking for information on undocumented immigration in the United States. Her study showed how Google often directs users toward the word “illegal” over the word “undocumented” and how this biasing can have negative repercussions in immigration discussions; she argued that the simple act of instantaneously and repeatedly displaying specific words or phrases holds the potential to influence long-term how people research, learn, and discuss a specific topic. In a statistics-based paper, “‘iTime’ as a Blessing or a Curse: Imaginaries of Smartphone Use and Personal and Social Time Among Generational Groups in Estonia”, Veronika Kalmus (University of Tartu, Estonia) focused on people’s imaginaries of smartphones, and the relationships between those imaginaries and personal perception and use of time, testing empirically Ben Agger’s thesis that social imaginaries of the normal social life in a smartphone era vary generationally. Taking as a starting point the Internet jargon term ‘TL;DR’, which stands for ‘too long didn’t read.’ — a dismissive response to a text that was too long or not interesting enough to read within the Internet’s ‘quick pace’ – Stacey Koosel (Estonian Academy of Arts) addressed the many levels of temporality factors in digital culture, arguing notably that online time can be more easily manipulated, artificially constructed and fragmented than offline time, and that temporal awareness online is often a by-product of design, by software guiding temporal and spatial constructs that help create meaning. And finally, Alex Leavitt and colleagues, in “Beyond Big Bird”, addressed the question of how emergent discourses impact the interpretation of large social media events, through an analysis of the use of humor (or lack thereof) in tweets posted during each of the three 2012 presidential debates. Their findings invite to consider humor and other contextual aspects of communication in studies of participatory politics on social media, while emphasizing the “live” and real-time aspect of the impact of tweeting activities.

Francesca Musiani (ISCC)

Time(s) and materiality of the Internet discussed at IR16 Phoenix / Part 2

Old Thinkpad with 3Com Ethernet / modem PCMCIA card sticking out Jim Henderson, travail personnel. CC0

Old Thinkpad with 3Com Ethernet / modem PCMCIA card sticking out
Jim Henderson, travail personnel, CC0

The second panel, “Material”, held on Thursday 23 October, provided some very interesting perspectives on the ‘mundane’ devices that are such an integral part of how we interact with, and indeed, define, our relation to the digital. James Allen-Robertson (University of Essex, UK) focused on the Hard Disk drive as a material foundation for contemporary digital media, providing a historical perspective drawing elements from the development of the Gramophone and Phonograph, Magnetic Tape and Optical Media – a perspective that leveraged Foucault’s concept of ‘descent’ to provide a historical perspective on the way in which fundamental material factors constrain, influence and encourage particular uses of digital media. In the case of the Hard Disk, according to Allen-Robertson, the descent demonstrates how this device’s operation plays a role in the affordances of digital media and how these affordances are prefigured in older media technologies. In his piece “Singing Data Over the Phone”, Kevin Driscoll (Microsoft Research) focused on the modem instead, as a “singularly powerful symbol of late-20th century personal computer networking”. Operating at the junction of computing and communication, he argued, the modem was a device that both defined and defied boundaries during the early history of the net. First, during the period of rapid deregulation of U.S. telecommunications during the 1970s, when modems enabled thousands of microcomputer enthusiasts to exchange data and ideas over standard telephone wires. Second, as PC ownership grew more commonplace during the 1980s, when the modem became a mark of distinction, differentiating the everyday home computer owner from the small but growing telecomputing vanguard. As “a meeting point between the novel and legacy systems of personal computing and telephony”, at the intersection of “virtual and translocal imaginaires”, the modem, Driscoll argued, is deserving of a “social history” of its own. Lindsay Ems, from Butler University, presented an ethnography-based analysis of the socio-technical innovations, including professional artifacts and arrangements, which reflect and protect Amish religious and cultural values in our increasingly digital economy. Wireless ad-hoc arrangements, double screens, were presented as mundane and everyday devices and professional practices that have profound political implications for the empowerment of Amish communities to resist the assimilation of their culture in mainstream society in an increasingly globally networked world. In her award-winning paper “The Digital Not-so-imaginary Behind Genderless Online Discourse”, Jenny Korn adopted a perspective grounded in muted group theory and analytical feminism to examine online discourse within users of the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system in the United States, PLATO. She explored how gender manifested within computer-mediated communication in PLATO as an early originator of online social computing. She exposed gendered muting processes that have persisted from that time, and showed that to attain voice, women have had to present themselves in stereotypical ways that are aligned with men’s discourse.

Francesca Musiani (ISCC)

The Internet Age: Founders to the Future

Des acteurs majeurs de l’histoire d’Internet se sont réunis aujourd’hui au National Museum of American History pour discuter des perspectives futures. La vidéo sera bientôt archivée en ligne (voir ci-dessous l’annonce en anglais pour plus de détails), mais l’on peut déjà relever les réponses des différents acteurs à la question conclusive de l’histoire, Eric Hintz (Lemelson Center) : quels type de documents et archives faut-il préserver pour les historiens de 2030 ?

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Une histoire du futur : Negroponte revient sur ses prédictions

Ted met une fois de plus le fondateur du MIT Nicholas Negroponte à l’honneur en lui laissant la scène pour un retour synthétique sur 30 ans de prédictions sur le développement humain de l’informatique. A « visionner » sur Ted.

Une histoire illustrée d’AOL

A l’occasion du rachat imminent d’American OnLine par la société de télécom américaine Verizon, le New York Times propose une chronologie illustrée du pionnier des fournisseurs d’accès commerciaux à Internet, qui a joué depuis 1994 un rôle fondamental dans l’économie et la culture du Web. A consulter ici.

Disparition : Joseph Lechleider, père du DSL

(Crédit : NYTimes.)
Joseph Lechleider a participé à l’entrée des réseaux d’Internet dans la phase des « autoroutes de l’information » au tournant des années 1990, grâce à ses travaux aux Bell Labs sur le traitement numérique des signaux et l’accélération de la vitesse de transmission de données. Il est l’inventeur des modems de type DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines ; qui préfigure l’ADSL), qui deviendra la technologie de choix après l’étape des modems Dial Up, permettant, grâce à une vitesse accrue de téléchargement des données, l’enrichissement multimédia des pages Web. En savoir plus sur le site du NYTimes.
Schéma du modem DSL (crédit : Wikipédia).

1995-2015 : retour des paniques morales liées à Internet ?

Rue89.com commente la comparaison récente du traitement médiatique d’Internet en 1995 et en 2015 dans des contextes d’inquiétude sociales et (géo-)politiques. En effet, le milieu des années 1990 est marqué, en France tout du moins, par l’intérêt des gouvernements pour les réseaux d’information et de communication : c’est le début des premières tentatives de régulation d’Internet sous le ministère des télécommunications et de l’industrie de François Fillon. La couverture médiatique de l’époque témoigne déjà d’une inquiétude qui tend à transformer le Web en bouc émissaire.


Méthodologie et outils pour l’analyse d’archives Web

Un échange intéressant sur le plan méthodologique a eu lieu il y a quelques jours sur la liste de l’Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR), relatif à la captation de données dans les archives Web de Internetarchive.org (à travers sa Wayback Machine) – consultable dans les archives de la liste sous le titre de fil de discussion « Using the Archive.org for data capture ». Le voici avec les différentes contributions jusqu’à aujourd’hui :

[Air-L] Using the Archive.org for data capture?   Dan Fielding

Se sont dégagés au cours de cet échange des éléments bibliographiques de référence pour la question, dont quelques uns sont rassemblés ici :

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Réinventer la mémoire de nos ordinateurs en s’inspirant du vivant ?

Les origines, mais aussi le développement d’Internet et du Web ont souvent été mis en comparaison avec les modèles de réseau synaptiques, avec plus ou moins de fantasmes cybernétiques. Pour cette raison, on pourra garder en perspective des travaux en informatique récents qui perpétuent l’analogie cerveau/ordinateur, naturel/artificiel par exemple dans le domaine du stockage numérique, trouvant modèle dans les systèmes moléculaires et synaptiques.

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Discussion autour de l’History Manifesto

Le carnet de recherche ParenThèses revient sur les débats autour de la publication de Jo Guldi (Brown University) et David Armitage (Harvard University): The History Manifesto (Cambridge University Press). Quentin Verreycken aborde notamment la question de la longue durée et des humanités digitales.