Ethics of Web ArchivingMeghan Dougherty - LUCKirsten A. Foot - UWSteven M. Schneider - SUNYIT
WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOVJULY 30, 2008’s more than simply                 saving websitesTechnical choices       Methodological choicesproprietary or open ...
Traditional archivingprivacycopyrightsecurity
Onlinecommunication & collaborationanonymityscopereproducibility
Basic steps in web archivingcollectingcatalogingdisplay
Actors and stakeholdersprinciple investigatorsinstitutional review boardscollection commissionerslaw enforcementthe public
Merging roleswhere do the responsibilities lie?
Web archivistsproduce a data resourcequestions of maintenance and servicequestions of representation
Ethics of Web ArchivingMeghan Dougherty - LUCKirsten A. Foot - UWSteven M. Schneider - SUNYIT
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Ethics in/of Web Archiving


Published on

Researchers and archivists worldwide have begun to investigate the scholarly potential of web archiving as a complement to the study of the ‘live’ web. But the grounding of ethical research decisions in web archiving
projects is still murky. Archiving web artifacts is a challenge. The procedures require detailed decisions about inclusion and exclusion, meaning, and access. It forces us confront our definitions of public and private, of published and unpublished, and of producer and audience. This proposal offers an exploration of the ethical questions that arise during the building a web archiving project.

Published in: Technology, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • \n
  • There is a growing recognition in digital scholarship and cultural heritage that digital culture (or the material culture of the web) is heritage worth preserving and understanding. \n\nResearch methods in web studies and web historiography (namely the practices used to stabilize the volatile material culture of the web in order to study it) are shifting as scholars and archivists collaborate.\n\nresearchers examining the web need collections of web material that are stabilized, documented, and accessible.\n\nWeb archiving, in part, aims to meet that need. Web archiving is a process by which we preserve the cultural material of the web. A number of different organizations in different countries are active in this pursuit. The mission and scope of each project depends on the individual organizational mission, but a few examples are... \nThe Internet Archive and it’s Wayback Machine. And it’s European counterpart the European Archive.\nThe Library of Congress Minerva Project, and projects in other National Archives and Libraries around Europe\nAnd there are smaller boutique style archivists - such as, LiWA, HanzoWeb that provide different services from project consultation, analysis tools, and collection stewardship. \nAnd project specific archives - Archipol in Groningen, DACHS in Leiden, and the archive in Aarhus\n\nThe primary differences between these examples is scope - in terms of level of access, what’s included and excluded, and the systematic and strategic approach to archiving - all of the examples I just gave are influenced by different disciplinary methods and professional practices from Libraries and archives, to social science, humanities, and even service to corporate libraries. \n\nFor the most part though, technically, they all work generally like the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine here: \nIn this screenshot, I went to, searched for a specific URL (, and through their rendering tool - the Wayback machine - it shows me a list of all the “impressions” - essentially these are snapshots of this URL at different times. \n\nSo, a goal of web archiving is to stabilize the volatile material on the web. People misunderstand the web itself as an archive, when in fact content is constantly changing, appearing and disappearing with little documentation of those changes. This leaves us with a landscape constantly in the present - evaluating structural development or deterioration is difficult if what is out there reflects a permanent present, rather than examinable past or predictable future. \n\nLet me show you some examples of what I mean by that and what you get in these archives.... If you begin clicking through the Wayback machine, here’s what you’ll see...\n\n\n\n
  • example of an impression from 1996\n
  • and then in 2003\n
  • a little redesign from the 2003 site.\n
  • and errors with our collecting and rendering tools\n
  • and data retrieval errors. \n\nSo, even with this very quick introduction to web archiving, we can start anticipating some of the big problems for research ethics: \nwe have technical questions and methodological questions that speak to representativeness, inclusion and exclusion, interpretation, and sometimes even fabrication.\n
  • All of that is to say, there is more to web archiving than simply saving web sites. \n\nin the process of archiving, we have to make ethical choices - choices in technology and choices in methodology.\nSometimes those choices are able to be handled ahead of time, and sometimes (like we saw in this quick whitehouse example) we have to assess them and address them as our technology fails and forces these issues on us.\n\ntechnically, we must make choices about proprietary or open source software; whether we store archived objects at our institutions or whether we hire out a service; and once we determine those choices, we ultimately have to negotiate open or restricted access to the archive we’ve created. \n\nIn addition to those technical barriers, we struggle with methodological questions that end up reflected in the representations we create about the social phenomena that we collect and study. We struggle with questions of what we include and exclude when building an archive. We know that those choices trickle down to influence meaning made within the archives we build. And this extends beyond the first decisions that come to mind like “what sites do I capture?” - it also includes questions about whether or not to include links, and it involves questions of file type and the nature of a digital document living on the web. It also involves questions about search strategy - not only ethically and methodologically justifying what you want to capture, but then also justifying how you go about finding that material. \n\n\n
  • we can find some guidance from work in traditional archiving. Typical concerns there are privacy, security, and copyright. \n\nArchivists (and scholars using archives in research) are acutely aware of their choices \n- choices about inclusion and exclusion can violate privacy, or influence meaning by possibly protecting privacy too carefully;\n- copyright and fair use policies that guide access and use may vary across institutions; and \n- security... By archiving and aggregating, materials that may seem innocuous by themselves might pose threats only after being stabilized and collected with other objects.\n\nWeb archiving takes on a new flavor by being a merger of stewardship methods and scholarly methods - the way social science researchers tackle these questions differs from how archivists do. \n\nThese traditional guidelines can only take us so far because web archiving takes on special characteristics of online communication and collaboration. \n
  • When archiving material culture of the web, \nanonymity, scope and reproducibility take on new meaning:\n\nAnonymity: Anonymity can offer protection in many cases, but create integrity problems in others. Anonymity can make it “... difficult to develop a reliable history of experiences”\n\nScope: The immediacy, reach, and interactivity made possible by material culture that is built in and accessible through networked media change power structures — the scope of who and what each web actor can reach is vastly changed.\n\nReproducibility: Information and cultural artifacts can be reproduced and stabilized online without loss, and while having not been removed from evolving “live” web circulation. This kind of reproducibility changes expectations of permanence online — especially for users who use the web as temporary storage, or a space for works in progress.\n\nThese three overarching ethical issues confront the researcher-archivist repeatedly when building a web archive. \n
  • The basic web archiving operations include collecting, cataloging, and display. For each web archiving operation, there are ethical questions.\n\nFirst, in the collection stage involves the creation of the archive itself. The creative collection process includes procedures for notification, decisions of inclusion and exclusion and decisions about robot behavior or machine-generated data.\n\n Once collection is underway, cataloging begins. That process poses questions of interpretation and more challenges of interpreting machine-generated data. \n\nDisplay of the resulting archive can vary depending on the goals of the scholar-archivist. I may want to display portions of my archived artifacts to illustrate my research, but I might also consider enabling wholesale access to and reuse of my archive itself to support more studies.\n\n\n\n\n
  • But as a web archivist (no matter how small or inaccessible my archive might be), I can’t make these decisions in a vacuum - there are other actors and stakeholders involved.\n\nPrincipal investigators who value intellectual freedom bear a measure of social responsibility, and in some circumstances bear personal liability. IRBs maintain standards for social responsibility and manage institutional liability. Collection commissioners, agents, exhibitors, and site producers have a responsibility to protect intellectual property and prevent harm to their users. Law enforcement bodies may become involved with security concerns. The public has some stake too as these kinds of archives become valuable heritage resources. \n\nWho should be charged with making what decisions and on what bases?\n
  • New methods for research online are blurring the boundaries between researcher and participant, between producer and user, between scholar and archivist.\n\nI think this brings me to one last question that I hope to get some help from all of you on...\n
  • This one last question that I think is often overlooked (and reasonably so given all the other minutiae of designing and executing a web archiving project) is this:\nwhat do we do with the archive we’ve produced?\n\nin addition to scholarship, the researcher-archivist produces a potential research resource — an archive that they may choose to maintain and serve to others, or not.\nRather than being a research byproduct — a large data set that according to IRB standards will be disposed of or properly stored after research is complete — web archivists may aim to create a reusable resource, an artifact in and of itself.\n\nDo we have an ethical obligation to our disciplines, to our research communities to share that resource? encourage it’s reuse? If so, how are those kinds of contributions valued in different fields?\n\nand even if that is a deeply personal question for each research group to answer individually, we still have to ask... \n\nwho provides it? who gets access to what materials? when?\nand who decides?\n
  • \n
  • Ethics in/of Web Archiving

    1. 1. Ethics of Web ArchivingMeghan Dougherty - LUCKirsten A. Foot - UWSteven M. Schneider - SUNYIT
    4. 4. WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOVMARCH 20, 2003
    5. 5. WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOVAPRIL 23, 2008
    6. 6. WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOVJUNE 10, 2008
    7. 7. WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOVJULY 30, 2008
    8. 8.’s more than simply saving websitesTechnical choices Methodological choicesproprietary or open inclusion and exclusionsource software? of materials in the archiveinstitutional storageof archived merging of producermaterials or hire a and user rolesservice? transparency for reuseopen access or
    9. 9. Traditional archivingprivacycopyrightsecurity
    10. 10. Onlinecommunication & collaborationanonymityscopereproducibility
    11. 11. Basic steps in web archivingcollectingcatalogingdisplay
    12. 12. Actors and stakeholdersprinciple investigatorsinstitutional review boardscollection commissionerslaw enforcementthe public
    13. 13. Merging roleswhere do the responsibilities lie?
    14. 14. Web archivistsproduce a data resourcequestions of maintenance and servicequestions of representation
    15. 15. Ethics of Web ArchivingMeghan Dougherty - LUCKirsten A. Foot - UWSteven M. Schneider - SUNYIT