Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Storing digital heritage on the Net

A recent article in the New Yorker brought my attention to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine (“The Cobweb”, Jan. 26). To me, the digital information has always suggested an ultimate ethereality, a sense that everything produced in digital format defined by its impermanence (the article suggests that the average Web site life-span is around 100 days). But, the Internet Archive is challenging this idea by building a library of Web pages that has, since 1996, saved over 455 billion of them (apparently a full 20 billion in the couple months since the article was written). 
Internet archive is made possible through the use of the Wayback Machine, a software robot that 'crawls' diligently around the Net copying and archiving pages. Aditionally, people are able to contribute by selecting internet content that they think should be preserved. This is an interesting new opportunity for the various fields of heritage preservation as it seems to provide a localized and robust place to store publicly accessible information.
The article also cites the interesting fact that Twitter has made a deal to have all of it's tweets archived at the Library of Congress. Having predicted its own continued cultural significance, Twitter is trying to preserve itself as resource for future research even as the record is being created. This Ozymandian effort raises a number of questions for me regarding the relationship between heritage material, it's production and its preservation..    


Anonymous said...


Isabella Graham said...

The notion of a completely digital library is very intriguing! Perhaps we will end up with spaces to accommodate these virtual resources similar to Ryerson University's library without books. In regards to preserving archaeological information and heritage, this type of resource holds the potential for opening the dialogue between academia, CRM and the general public to disseminate knowledge that would normally be confined to field notes or inaccessible library items.The Way Back machine might just provide a way forward for digital technology in an archaeological/heritage context.

Jennifer Willoughby said...

I am particularly interested in the concept of a complete archive of Twitter. I can easily imagine future anthropologists combing through millions of tweets for any number of different research projects. For example, there is a trend on Twitter of taking selfies in museums, in order to encourage people to visit and engage with the material. Future archaeologists could use this Twitter archive to look at how people engage with museums, archaeological sites, etc. There are so many interesting possibilities!

Josh Herter said...

This is a really interesting concept. Considering the notion that we live in a day and age when everything is online for the world to see, this Wayback Machine is just another tool to keep this stuff active forever. This technology has the potential to be used by CRM companies for reference purposes and to study material in a more public manner. I think less privatization will be beneficial to the study of archaeology. The idea that Twitter has made this deal with the Library of Congress is interesting too. I'm excited (and slightly worried) to see what will be done with this digital heritage full of tweets.