Opening the Black Box of Web Archiving: STS Approaches and the Governance of Born-Digital Heritage

Illustration à partir de Nils Jepsen - Aarhus Universitet  CC BY 2.5

Illustration à partir de Nils Jepsen – Aarhus Universitet
CC BY 2.5

Résumé de l’intervention de Francesca Musiani et Valérie Schafer au colloque Web Archives as scholarly Sources: Issues, Practices and Perspectives, international conference, Aarhus (DK), 8-10 Juin 2015

At the crossroads of two topics of the conference, “Approaches to web archiving” and “Research methods for studying the archived web”, our starting point is that the material, practical, theoretical elements of Web archiving as an ensemble of practices and a terrain of inquiry are inextricably entwined. Several examples illustrate this, from the archiving practices of Internet Archive to those of national preservation institutions: they reveal different modalities of accessibility to archives, consultation interfaces, constitution of corpuses – that, in turn, are not without methodological consequences for researchers. Thus, the exploration of Web archiving processes and infrastructures – often discreet, invisible, ‘black-boxed’ (Latour, 1987) appears increasingly relevant.

Approaches inspired by Science and Technology Studies (STS) can contribute to shed light on the shaping of Web archives; and, in return, some of its notions – e.g. technical democracy, co-production, boundary object (Callon et al., 2001; Star & Griesemer, 1989) – may be approached in novel ways building upon Web archives as a research terrain. In particular, STS approaches are interesting in order to explore the notion of governance as it relates to born-digital heritage.

In 2005, the Working Group on Internet Governance defined Internet governance as “the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet”, adding that “it also includes other significant public policy issues, such as critical Internet resources, the security and safety of the Internet, and developmental aspects and issues pertaining to the use of the Internet”. A definition that fits Web archives very well, if they replace systematically the word “Internet”: indeed, Web archiving practices involve a variety of actors, moved by different motivations; they encompass different and evolving definitions, values, imaginaries of the very notion of Web archiving (e.g. Kaehle, 2014 on the “participatory turn” in archiving the Internet); they suggest different ways in which control and responsibility can be exerted, be it social norms, technical standards or policies.

As such, our contribution aims to show that Web archives and archiving, understood as a socio-technical system, display a number of features and raise questions that are of interest for Internet governance scholars: multi-stakeholderism, the dialectic between national, international, transnational governance(s), and the juxtaposition of market, technology and norms as instruments of power. Web archiving: a microcosm of Internet governance?


Callon, M., Lascoumes, P. & Barthe, Y. (2001). Agir dans un monde incertain. Essai sur la démocratie technique, Paris: Seuil.

Kaehle, B. (2014, October 28). “Building Libraries Together

Latour, B. (1987). Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Star, S. L. & Griesemer, J. (1989). Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science, 19 (3) : 387- 420.

Changing Platforms of Memory Practices. Technologies, User Generations and Amateur Media Dispositifs

Conférence du 10 au 12 Septembre 2015, University of Groningen, Pays-Bas

One of the keynote speakers will be Megan Sapnar Ankerson talking about “My Personal Web History: Using the Wayback Machine as Technology of memory”.

Megan Sapnar Ankerson is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, where she studies media and communication technologies from historical, comparative, industrial, and cultural perspectives. Her teaching and research interests include digital media, visual culture, internet and web history, software studies and media aesthetics. Her forthcoming book, Dot-com Design, examines the emergence of “quality” web design practices as modes of imaging the future at the turn of 21st century. She is currently working on a project about digital nostalgia and amateur engagement with web archives.

Other interesting panel speakers for this list will be Catherine Summerhayes (Australian National University) talking about Google earth as a site for remembering and erasure and Niels Kerssens (University of Amsterdam) about the various traditions of practice and discourse around the relationship humans historically had with computers.

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Reading the Comments

9780262028936_0In Reading the Comments. Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the WebJoseph M. Reagle, Jr. visits communities of Amazon reviewers, fan fiction authors, online learners, scammers, freethinkers, and mean kids. He shows how comment can inform us (through reviews), improve us (through feedback), manipulate us (through fakery), alienate us (through hate), shape us (through social comparison), and perplex us. He finds pre-Internet historical antecedents of online comment in Michelin stars, professional criticism, and the wisdom of crowds. He discusses the techniques of online fakery (distinguishing makers, fakers, and takers), describes the emotional work of receiving and giving feedback, and examines the culture of trolls and haters, bullying, and misogyny. He considers the way comment—a nonstop stream of social quantification and ranking—affects our self-esteem and well-being. And he examines how comment is puzzling—short and asynchronous, these messages can be slap-dash, confusing, amusing, revealing, and weird, shedding context in their passage through the Internet, prompting readers to comment in turn, “WTF?!?”

CfP Making ‘Big Data’ Human: Doing History in a Digital Age

big-data-conference-imageAlison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, 9th September 2015

With Keynote Speaker Prof. Jane Winters, Professor of Digital History and Head of Publications, Institute of Historical Research

In a digital society, it is hard to escape discussions of ‘big data’, massive amounts of information that need database and software techniques for full processing.  But beyond this initial definition what does ‘big data’ really mean?  Do we already use it?  Why do we need to?  And how can we integrate this with historical research when using data sets simply too ‘big’ for traditional methods of analysis and presentation?  Reflections on the impact and the usage of data, which have perhaps been more forthcoming in the spheres of business and science, are still only starting to permeate through the humanities.

Yet our very idea of knowledge is being revolutionised by the digital sphere, in terms of data gathering, availability, and interactions – through online databases, digital archives, mapping systems or simply with everyday internet searches.  Big data sits behind many of the tools we use for research in any field of historical study.  For those working on projects with a fixed ending, whether as a postgraduate student or as an early-career researcher, it can be hard to find ways in which to approach this data wisely and usefully without becoming overwhelmed or losing touch with a humanistic approach.

This one-day conference will approach what it means to use big data to ‘do history’.  Through a series of panel sessions we will address questions such as:  What new opportunities can big data provide for historians?  Can we retain the richness of history in big data, and what might historical methodologies bring to its study?  Does the use of big data risk ignoring the subordinate and those not traditionally represented?  What does digital history mean for the use of traditional historical methodologies?  The panels will culminate in a roundtable session which will bring together thoughts from across the day to further our understanding of whether ‘big data’ requires an entirely new methodological approach to history and, if so, what impact this has on the ‘humanistic’ side of history as a discipline.

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Cahiers philosophiques : La révolution informatique

Le dernier numéro des Cahiers Philosophiques (n°141/2ème trimestre 2015) porte sur “La révolution informatique”.

Que l’on retienne ou non le terme « révolution » pour évaluer les innombrables changements impliqués par l’apparition de l’informatique, il importe de prendre la mesure de la nouveauté de ce qui est en train d’advenir. La multiplication et la dissémination des machines informatiques, l’existence de l’Internet et les transformations sociales, politiques, esthétiques et cognitives qui y sont associées, l’émergence d’un « monde numérique » peuvent retenir l’attention d’une philosophie soucieuse du temps présent. Ce numéro des Cahiers philosophiques expose certaines questions et directions d’investigation qui sont un échantillon d’un vaste domaine en cours de constitution. Le numéro a été coordonné par M. Bourdeau et S. Marchand.

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The evolving Internet Archive

Pour découvrir les motivations et coulisses de la dernière version d’Internet Archive.






Quelques repères chronologiques sélectionnés par Marguerite Borelli (étudiante à University College of London et actuellement stagiaire Web90) :

1996 : création de l’Internet Archive et débuts de l’archivage du Web

1999 : début de l’archivage de matériaux audiovisuels via un partenariat avec les Prelinger Archives, constituée de films ‘éphémères’ (publicités, films éducatifs ou publiés par des entreprises, ONGs, ou des particuliers (les ‘home movies’).

2000 : début de la collaboration avec la Library of Congress à l’occasion de l’élection présidentielle.

2001 : lancement de la Wayback Machine, l’interface utilisateur qui permet aux internautes de naviguer dans l’archive Web.

2004 : Internet Archive lance le ‘Grateful Dead Internet Archive Project’ (GDIAP), et publie en ligne une archive gratuite des enregistrements du groupe The Grateful Dead par son public pendant ses nombreux concerts.

2004 : Internet Archive développe Petabox, un système sécurisé de sauvegarde de données à faible consommation énergétique avec une capacité d’un Petabyte de données (= 1 million de GB).

2004 : IA commence à numériser et archiver des livres papier (lancement de la page ‘eBooks and Texts’ sur Internet Archive) (maintenant en collaboration avec Open Library,).

2005 : lancement de la page ‘films and videos’ sur Internet Archive

2005 : lancement de la page ‘Audio Archive’ sur Internet Archive

2005 : IA lance en partenariat avec Yahoo ! la Open Content Alliance, une archive numérique internationale (multimédia et textes numérisés multilingues) en accès libre sur l’Internet Archive et à partir du moteur de recherche Yahoo!

2006 : Internet Archive lance Archive-It, un service de management des archives du Web qui aide ses institutions clientes à crawler, construire, cataloguer et préserver leurs collections, dont les contenus sont hébergés et stockés sur les serveurs d’Internet Archive.

Novembre/Décembre 2007 – Mai 2008 : Brewster Kahle reçoit une national-security letter (NSL) du FBI l’ordonnant de fournir le nom, l’adresse et les communications électroniques d’un de ses usagers. IA, l’American Civil Liberties Union et la Electronic Frontier Foundation intentent un procès au FBI pour contester la constitutionnalité de la procédure de confidentialité ainsi que la légalité de la lettre en question. Internet Archive obtient gain de cause en avril 2008.

2008 : lancement du projet de collaboration entre Internet Archive et la NASA, NASA Images, pour faciliter l’accès du public aux collections vidéo, images, et audio de l’agence spatiale. Le site est fermé depuis 2012, mais certaines parties demeurent accessibles via les archives Web d’Internet Archive.

2009 : Internet Archive lance, un service d’archivage des URLs raccourcies qui permet de retrouver la page Web originale d’un URL raccourci dans le cas ou celui-ci ne fonctionnerait plus.

2010 : lancement de la page ‘Images’ sur Internet Archive, d’où sont accessibles des images et photos digitales ou digitalisées (collections NASA Images, Metropolitan Museum, Brooklyn Museum, USGS Maps, etc.).

2012 : lancement de la TV News Archive sur IA, qui permet de visualiser en streaming les journaux télévisés américains depuis 2009.

2014 : création de la Internet Archive Software Collection, bibliothèque en ligne de logiciels vintage ou historiques (CD-Roms, logiciels libres, jeux sur PC, etc.).

Cette chronologie s’appuie sur des information émanant du site d’Internet Archive, des blogs de Brewster Kahle et d’Internet Archive, et des sites respectifs des différents projets et organisations impliqués  (Alexa, OpenLibrary, Open Content Alliance ou Electronic Frontier Foundation). 

CfP SIGCIS Workshop 2015: Infrastructures

SIGCIS Workshop 2015: Infrastructures

Sunday, October 11, 2015, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Deadline for submissions: June 30, 2015
Ben Stanfield — CC BY-SA 2.0

Ben Stanfield —
CC BY-SA 2.0

 For the SIGCIS 2015 Workshop, we invite papers that engage historical dimensions of the prosaic work of building networks, cultivating workforces, and maintaining computing and information infrastructures. Related themes necessarily include maintenance, labor, and ordinary experiences with information and computing technologies. Proposals for individual papers or complete sessions might include the following topics:
  • the maintenance of legacy hardware and software
  • the training and treatment of labor and workforces
  • the lived realities of computers and IT
  • digital archives and their sustainability
  • cyberinfrastructures for bureaucratic and scientific collaboration
  • materiality of computing, media, and information technologies
  • specific infrastructural technologies such as cables, fiber-optics, switching, and wireless
  • political and economic aspects of infrastructure maintenance and development
  • tensions between local or national legal regimes and global information infrastructures

CfP MCP’s special issue ‘Studies in Cultural Memory’

A reminder that the MCP’s special issue ‘Studies in Cultural Memory’ is approaching: 30 June 2015.

This special issue welcomes research across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and seeks to provide a critical forum for dialogue and debate on the theoretical, methodological, and empirical issues central to an understanding of cultural memory today. Papers should address the ways in which cultural memory is formed, used, presented and represented, appropriated, and changed while being committed to the broad understanding of cultural memory as the interplay of past and present in socio-cultural and historical contexts. In particular, the volume encourages papers that examine questions of cultural memory, its manipulation and its understanding as a methodological and epistemological tool, as well as papers that investigate the relation between cultural memory and new media (including the Internet, social media etc) as well as old media (photography, cinema, TV etc).

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Conférence de Boris Beaude le 23 juin 2015

UnknownRetour du cycle culture numérique au Lavoir Public (à Lyon), le mardi 23 juin de 19h à 21h, entrée libre: INTERNET VA-T-IL DISPARAITRE? REPONSE DE BORIS BEAUDE

Boris Beaude, chercheur au laboratoire Chôros de l’École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, auteur du livre Les fins d’internet paru chez FYP en 2014,  analysera le renversement de l’idéologie qui a prévalu à l’essor d’Internet, les raisons qui en font préfigurer la disparition, et fournira quelques clés qui permettraient de le sauver.

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BOBCATSSS 2016 in Lyon : Information, Libraries, and Democracy

Call for Papers (deadline September 2015).

BOBCATSSS 2016 explores the main theme of Information, Libraries, and Democracy through several key topics: The Role of Libraries in Democratic Cultures, Intellectual Freedom and Censorship, Libraries, Open Access and Open Data, and Protecting Privacy.

The program includes paper presentations, workshops, poster exhibitions, short presentation sessions and invited keynote speakers. Details about the topics and guidelines are provided in the instructions below.

More info.