David Berry's slides from Digital Conversations event on 26/09/2013
Scholarly Use of
Dr. David M. Berry
University of Sussex
• Interested in theorising computational
approaches in A&H and social sciences – digital
• Digital is becoming a research programme and
how the condition of possibility for research.
• Starting premise is to avoid the dangers of a
“truth machine” – critical approaches to the
• We are moving into what might be thought
of as a third wave in the use of
computational media in relation to archives.
• The first was mass digitalisation and
curation of digital content.
• The second was the curation of born-digital
content and the web as an archival source.
• But now we need to think about how to
develop new kinds of cultural practices in
relation to digital archives.
• This includes the use of scholarly archives in
combinatory forms, new forms of access (APIs),
digital humanities approaches such as distant
• In other words thinking about post-”web”
archiving techniques and practices.
• But also a closer attention to the
materiality of these digital forms, for
example investigating the extent of “lock-
in” manifested by previous technical
• This also means moving beyond the
“comprehensive” mentality of web archives
and towards “accessibility” and “practices”
• This requires the archivist to augment
existing skills and shift from a notion of a
“static” archive towards an “archive in
• New forms of digital engagement also mean
that existing disciplinary apparatus in
relation to the archive may be insufficient
or unproductive for digital methods.
• Scholars too are grappling with the
possibilities and methods that are
transformed in using digital archives.
• This includes questions of access, throttling,
closed standards, refreshing archives (and
formats), and so on.
• This materiality of the digital archive
therefore needs to be kept more in mind.
• Especially when we consider that we need
to cope with what might be called the
“dark web”, that is DRM and difficult to find
• How to handle the plethora of formats,
structures, and so forth, esp. negotiating the
interconnected nature of network media.
• It is often taken for granted that if you build
digital archives then people will use them.
• This is not necessarily the case, and the lessons
from the software industry is that users need
to be educated in how to use technology.
• This is inevitably hard work in interface and
API design, sample code, lectures and so forth.
• But there is a lot of potential in new web
archives, particularly if they have the
commitment to open access and open data
and can open up historical “closed” materials.
• Especially if they can be built around a
community of use (scholarly or otherwise),
which develops a user base and expertise for
others to draw from.