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Interrogating the Politics and Performativity of Web Archiving



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Interrogating the Politics and Performativity of Web Archiving

  1. 1. Interrogating the Politics and Performativity of Web Archiving — Jessica Ogden — Joint conference on Digital Libraries 2016: Doctoral consortium | Rutgers University | 19 June 2016
  2. 2. • Background: my academic training and where we are to date • Research context • Theoretical framework • Problematising web archiving, some questions • Proposed methodology • Future work Outline
  3. 3. Preface: Perspectives Web Archiving Anthropology • culturally constituted meanings and socially organised practices • recording practice stories Archaeology • materiality of tech artefacts • data repository management • digital tools for cultural heritage recording Web Science • socio-technical systems • repository software development • critical information studies Archives • appraisal practice • digital record management
  4. 4. • Defining web archives… turns out this is pretty hard to do. Research Context International Organisation for Standardisation (Sept. 2012)
  5. 5. • Defining web archives… turns out this is pretty hard to do. Research Context Dougherty et al. (2010)
  6. 6. • Defining web archives… turns out this is pretty hard to do. Research Context Dougherty et al. (2010)
  7. 7. • Why do these definitions matter? • Divide within the practice literature between web archives and ‘social media archives’ - in terms of standards, ‘best practice’ and the mitigating factors that affect collection • Assumptions about what web archives are -> reflective of understanding of what the Web is? (Web 1.0/2.0?) • Intentionality behind collection seemingly an important factor - explicitly gives weight to selection practices Research Context
  8. 8. • Existing surveys of web archival practice - some key points • Gomes et al. (2011) - global view on ‘who is archiving’, migrated to Wikipedia page which is continuously updated. Some discussion of ‘what’ is being archived. • Bailey et al. (2012/2014) - presence/absence of collection + access policies, flags up increased financial commitment to web archiving, but continued concern about ‘scoping collections’ • Truman (2016) - community needs to ‘radically increase communication and collaboration’ and ‘build local capacity’ Research Context
  9. 9. Research Context - motivations for Web Archiving Legislation • Public record retainment • Non-legal deposit laws • Regulatory compliance Digital heritage (+ Knowledge) • Advocacy for ‘collective web heritage’, historical view of digital cultural production through time • Preservation/provision of universal knowledge • User rights/advocacy for user-generated content Academic • Long term preservation of scholarly citations/ web outputs • Support web-based research Selection practices?
  10. 10. Research Context - challenges Tools + Technologies • Pace of web development • Path dependencies in harvesting/record management tools • ‘Data access regimes’ and platform APIs Defining the Object • Understanding boundaries of selection/collection objects • Accounting for epistemological/ ontological perspectives Legal + Ethical • Copyright restrictions • Ethical implications for collection with/out consent • Representativeness (geographic, language, ethnic) of a global Web Selection practices clearly affected by these, but Let’s take a step Back
  11. 11. • Archives are not just sites of knowledge retrieval, but deeply reflective of/implicated in the production of knowledge • Objective role of archivists VS valuing interpretive role of archivists in the construction of social memory • Selection practices are unavoidably exclusionary - certain narratives are privileged, others marginalised • Critical engagement with archival practice as a set of ‘professional decisions’ enables reflection on the operation of power in archival maintenance Theoretical Framework: Postmodernism + Questioning Archives
  12. 12. • ‘Naturalisation of practice’ - Butler’s (1996) ‘social magic,’ where repeated action -> patterns of behaviour and belief, shifts the locus away from a subject that constitutes an action (the performative) to a subject constituted by that action • Performativity applied as critique of ‘archival science’ by Cook and Schwartz (2002) • Role of materiality - ‘generative capabilities’ of technologically- enabled data, information, and knowledge which are in an ‘eternal process of becoming’ (Pinch and Henry 1999; Waterton 2010) Theoretical Framework: Performative (Web) Archives
  13. 13. 1. Web archiving is performative Problem statement/Thesis Brügger, N. (2012)
  14. 14. 1. Web archiving is performative Problem statement/Thesis • Web archives are created through ‘the doing’ of web archiving.They are contingent on the multitude of socio- technical, economic, legal and ethical factors that affect their creation
  15. 15. 2. Web archiving as a (new?) form of knowledge production Problem statement/Thesis • Important to understand the selection/appraisal practices of web archiving to understand the ways in which web archives enhance/constrain knowledge about the Web • Insufficient literature exists detailing selection/appraisal practices of web archivists - and specifically how these are similar/differ across communities
  16. 16. 3. Web archiving/archives as socio-technical assemblages Problem statement/Thesis • Consider how the materiality of technologies (platforms, tools, interfaces, code, algorithms) are implicated in the production of archives and their role in the development of practice • Role of social identity in web archival practice, as observed through the routine activities and typical patterns of work
  17. 17. (Evolving) Research Questions • How does web archival practice shape the Web that is archived? • What are selection/appraisal practices? In what ways does practice differ (in rationale, content, methods) across communities? • What is the role of materiality - how is web archival practice ‘embedded in physical artefacts, technologies, and ways of doing things’?
  18. 18. • Ethnographic Methods - chosen as places importance on ‘collecting information about macro processes […] institutions, patterns, and norms as well as about people’s feelings, thoughts and experiences’ (O’Reilly 2015) • Semi-structured interviews, structured (online/offline) observations, documentary analysis of historical sources - with goal of developing ‘thick description’ of web archival practice in different communities • ‘Focused Ethnography’ - relatively short-term visits, periods of intense data collection, emphasis on communicative activities • Drawing on organisation studies, STS (observing socio-tech interactions) Proposed Methodology
  19. 19. • Establishing access to the ‘backstage’ (Goffman) - whilst creating incentives for participation and not doing professional harm • Observing and following technological agents - beyond ‘users using computers’ • Assessing relationship between discursive practices and actual collection practices • Documenting the ‘naturalisation of practice’ within/across web archiving communities • Translating findings into significance and contribute to key findings of Truman (2016) - e.g. leading to collaboration and building local capacity for web archiving Proposed Methodology: Some Objectives
  20. 20. Sampling Communities of Practice • Social + Professional identities and roles • Motivations, aims • Content types, platforms • Tools + Technologies used, developed (University archives, and smaller, localised archives)
  21. 21. • Further fleshing out of methodology - both practically and theoretically • Preliminary analysis of Archive Team logs and wiki - assessing who the key players are (+ how these may be used as evidence of discursive practices and resulting actions) -> approach for contextual interviews • Setting up access/schedule for case studies, ethics approval and getting appropriate consent for observations/interviews • Key: thinking ahead about ways to assess outcomes between communities of practice - in a structured way Future Work
  22. 22. References And Credits Media: Brewster Kahle: Educause https:// Jason Scott: By pinguino k from North Hollywood, USA Noun Project: Envelope by Alexandria Eddings building by João Proença Poetry by Cristiano Zoucas colosseum by Adriano Gazzellini code by Azis Twitter by OliM Compass by gayatri mouse pointer by Julynn B. Question by SuperAtic LABS References: Bailey,J. et al., 2014.Web Archiving in the United States: A 2013 Survey,The National Digital Stewardship Alliance.Available at: http:// [Accessed January 28, 2016]. Brügger, N., 2012.When the Present Web is Later the Past: Web Historiography, Digital History, and Internet Studies. Historical Social Research, 37(4), pp. 102 – 117. Butler,J. Performativity’s Social Magic. In Schatzki,T. R. and Natter,W., editors, The Social and Political Body.The Guilford Press, New York, 1996. Dougherty, M., Meyer, E.T., Madsen, C., van den Heuvel, C.,Thomas,A., and Wyatt, S. Researcher Engagement with Web Archives State of the Art.Technical report,JISC, London, 2010. Gomes, D., Miranda,J. & Costa, M., 2011.A Survey on Web Archiving Initiatives. In S. Gradmann et al., eds. Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 408–420. O’Reilly, K., 2015. Ethnography: Telling Practice Stories. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences.John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Schwartz,J. M. and Cook,T.Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Archival Science, 2:1–19, 2002. Truman, G. 2016.WebArchiving Environmental Scan. Harvard Library Report, Harvard Law, Cambridge. Waterton, C. Experimenting with the Archive: STS-ers As Analysts and Co-constructors of Databases and Other Archival Forms. Science,Technology, & Human Values, 35(5):645–676, 2010.
  23. 23. Acknowledgements This Ph.D. is supervised by Professor Susan Halford and Professor Les Carr at the University of Southampton. This presentation was enabled by a generous student travel grant provided by the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval.Additional funds were provided by the University of Southampton’s Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training. This Ph.D. research is funded by the EPSRC Grant Number EP/G036926/1.