News and events

#ethics @ #webarc15

A welcome complement to the lately growing number of web archiving-specific events, the inaugural Web Archives: Capture, Curate, Analyze conference (tweet stream) brought together an eclectic crowd of researchers, instructors, students, archivists, librarians, developers, and others interested in web archiving. A novel mixture of institutions was also represented - some active principally through IIPC, many more associated with the SAA Web Archiving Roundtable and/or Archive-It Partner communities, and still others who I'd not yet encountered in these more established, practitioner-centric fora.

Echoing the sentiments of other participants, I was impressed and inspired both by the diversity of perspectives and the excitement for moving web archiving forward. As befitting such a group, the schedule and hallway conversations crossed a wide array of topics. Running through it all, though, questions of ethics seemed to be a persistent subject. I'll highlight three areas of ethical concern that stood out for me.

logo graphic appearing on the "WorldWideWeb SLAC Home Page" in 1993

The world's first websites were built for very different rendering and navigation interfaces than the comparatively advanced browsers available today. Thanks to the work of web archivists (e.g., CERN, SLAC), we can celebrate the incongruity of accessing some of these ancient websites using modern browsers. While a traditional goal of web archiving has been to preserve the "canonical" user experience of a website, this has been persistently impaired by (among other challenges) accessing web archives using software other than would've been available at the time content was archived.

logo of the Society of American Archivists

"What does it take to archive a linear foot of the Web?," Anna Perricci posed rhetorically to our web archiving metrics breakout discussion group two weeks ago. I don't yet have a good answer for what the question's getting at, but I was gratified by the level of interest and engagement in web archiving as archiving at the just-concluded Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting and inaugurally coscheduled Archive-It Partner Meeting.

logo of the 2015 Joint Conference on Digital Libraries

We've written before on our restoration of the oldest U.S. website, covering in detail how we did it and some interesting discoveries we made along the way. More recently, Web Archiving Engineer Ahmed AlSum prepared a visual diagram (see below) of the steps involved in packaging, indexing, and making accessible the legacy web content in a poster for the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL), an annual meeting sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) focused on research and development for digital libraries. Notably, the display won the Best Poster Award! We celebrate the continued community interest in Ahmed's innovative work.

winning poster for JCDL 2015, titled 'Reconstruction of U.S. First Website'