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Reading creationism in the web archive: a utopian dream, a conspiracy theory and a moral panic

Slides for a paper given at the ReSAW conference 'Web Archives as Scholarly Sources', Aarhus (Denmark), June 2015

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Reading creationism in the web
archive: a utopian dream, a
conspiracy theory and a moral
panic
Peter Webster
Webster Research and Consulting
@pj_webster
Creationism ?
• non-evolutionary account of human
origins
• modern
• a long history
• a feature of some parts of evangelicalism
• (anti-evolutionism, Intelligent Design)
Three questions
A justified conspiracy theory about
marginalisation of creationist voices?
A real danger or a moral panic (Truth in
Science) ?
The web as friend of the marginalised
opinion?
Data: UK Host Link
Graph (1996-2010)
1996 | appserver.ed.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1
1996 | art-www.acorn.co.uk | portico.bl.uk 1
1996 | astra.ich.ucl.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1
1996 | back.niss.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1
1996 | beta.bids.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 2
19GB, available at: http://tinyurl.com/kon2eve
Approach
• selection of key UK creationist sites
• extraction of all unique inbound referring
hosts for 1996-2010
• inspection and classification
Caveats on method
• partial nature of the dataset
• benchmarking of absolute numbers
• selective sample
• what does a link mean, anyway ?
• not looking at number of linking resources
per host

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Reading creationism in the web archive: a utopian dream, a conspiracy theory and a moral panic

  • 1. Reading creationism in the web archive: a utopian dream, a conspiracy theory and a moral panic Peter Webster Webster Research and Consulting @pj_webster
  • 2. Creationism ? • non-evolutionary account of human origins • modern • a long history • a feature of some parts of evangelicalism • (anti-evolutionism, Intelligent Design)
  • 3. Three questions A justified conspiracy theory about marginalisation of creationist voices? A real danger or a moral panic (Truth in Science) ? The web as friend of the marginalised opinion?
  • 4. Data: UK Host Link Graph (1996-2010) 1996 | appserver.ed.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1 1996 | art-www.acorn.co.uk | portico.bl.uk 1 1996 | astra.ich.ucl.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1 1996 | back.niss.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 1 1996 | beta.bids.ac.uk | portico.bl.uk 2 19GB, available at: http://tinyurl.com/kon2eve
  • 5. Approach • selection of key UK creationist sites • extraction of all unique inbound referring hosts for 1996-2010 • inspection and classification
  • 6. Caveats on method • partial nature of the dataset • benchmarking of absolute numbers • selective sample • what does a link mean, anyway ? • not looking at number of linking resources per host
  • 7. Truth in Science: how significant? • only 46 unique inbound hosts • … of which many were other creationists or secularist sites • two churches, one school • fewer in 2010 than 2007
  • 9. Conclusions • a utopian dream unfulfilled • a genuine moral panic • a justified conspiracy theory?