You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.

Web as History

Web as History: Using Web Archives to Understand the Past and the Present OPEN ACCESS

Niels Brügger
Ralph Schroeder
Copyright Date: 2017
Published by: UCL Press
Pages: 296
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Web as History
    Book Description:

    The World Wide Web has now been in use for more than 20 years. From early browsers to today’s principal source of information, entertainment and much else, the Web is an integral part of our daily lives, to the extent that some people believe ‘if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist.’ While this statement is not entirely true, it is becoming increasingly accurate, and reflects the Web’s role as an indispensable treasure trove. It is curious, therefore, that historians and social scientists have thus far made little use of the Web to investigate historical patterns of culture and society, despite making good use of letters, novels, newspapers, radio and television programmes, and other pre-digital artefacts. This volume argues that now is the time to question what we have learnt from the Web so far. The 12 chapters explore this topic from a number of interdisciplinary angles – through histories of national web spaces and case studies of different government and media domains – as well as an introduction that provides an overview of this exciting new area of research.

    eISBN: 978-1-911307-56-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Ralph Schroeder and Niels Brügger

    The web has been with us for more than a quarter of a century. It has become a daily and ubiquitous source of information in many peoples’ lives around the globe. But what does it tell us about historical and social change? For a researcher in the twenty-second century, it will seem unimaginable that someone studying the twenty-first century would do anything but draw heavily on the online world to tell them about peoples’ changing lives. Currently, however, the web remains an almost untapped source for research. This book aims to make a start in this direction.

    If the importance...

    • Eric T. Meyer, Taha Yasseri, Scott A. Hale, Josh Cowls, Ralph Schroeder and Helen Margetts

      The World Wide Web is enormous and in constant flux, with more web content lost to time than is currently accessible via the live web. The growing body of archived web material available to researchers is potentially immensely valuable as a record of important aspects of modern society, but there have previously been few tools available to facilitate research using archived web materials (Dougherty and Meyer, 2014). Furthermore, based on the many talks we have given over the years to a variety of audiences, some researchers are not even aware of the existence of web archives or their possible uses....

    • Scott A. Hale, Grant Blank and Victoria D. Alexander

      With its seemingly limitless scope, the World Wide Web promises enormous advantages, along with enormous problems, to researchers who seek to use it as a source of data. Websites change continually and a high level of flux makes it challenging to capture a snapshot of the web, or even a cross-section of a small subset of the web. Web archives, such as those at the Internet Archive, promise to store and deliver repeated cross-sections of the web, offering the potential for longitudinal analysis. Whether this potential is realized depends on the extent to which the archive has fully captured the...

    • Niels Brügger, Ditte Laursen and Janne Nielsen

      What does an entire national web domain look like? And how can its development over time be understood? Using the Danish web as our case study, this chapter explores these questions by studying the historical development of the .dk domain names and the .dk domains archived in the Danish national web archive, Netarkivet, as well as in the international US-based web archive Internet Archive. The analysis is a first step in a larger study of the development of the Danish web. This chapter will also address the broad questions above by combining different sources and developing methods that access and...

    • Matthew S. Weber

      Tuchman (1978) noted in her ethnographic research that newspapers were responsible for creating a constant flow of information to consumers, continually moulding our comprehension of society. In the 1970s, more than 62 million newspapers were sold in the USA each day. Readership had been growing or stable for more than 50 years. Subsequently, what was a constant flow has become a torrent of news today, and the news industry has entered a period of remarkable tumult. News and information today flows to consumers via many traditional media, but it is increasingly complemented, and in some cases preceded, by computers, tablets,...

    • Josh Cowls and Jonathan Bright

      The disjuncture between ‘the world outside and the picture in our heads’ remains as relevant today as it was when Walter Lippman described it in 1922. At that time, a dramatically more efficient means of mass communication – radio – was making the spreading of news much faster and easier compared with what had come before; news of the outbreak of the First World War spread in hours and days, rather than weeks. Yet, Lippman argued, this quantitative shift in speed of transmission was not matched by a qualitative shift in the nature of mass communication. At the outbreak of...

    • Valérie Schafer

      All the ingredients for a political and media scandal were present in this Gubler affair: a well-known public figure (the deceased former French President), a secret (finally revealed by the doctor Gubler), a court ruling (stopping book sales) and a private entrepreneur operating an internet café who decided to provide online access to the book in 1996. Immediately relayed through a British website, the book’s contents soon found their way on to dozens of servers, in what became a textbook case for the debates on rights and freedoms on the internet (Eko, 2013: 100–1).

      Indeed, by the mid-1990s, the...

    • Ian Milligan

      As the World Wide Web entered mainstream North American society in the mid- to late 1990s, GeoCities was there to welcome users with open arms.¹ GeoCities helped to facilitate their first steps into publishing, so they could reach previously unimaginable audiences. For the first time, users could create their own web pages without having to worry about the intimidating acronym soup of FTP, HTML, and the like. It was in places like GeoCities where users would become parts of virtual communities held together by volunteers, neighbourhood watches, web rings and guest books. These methods, grounded in the rhetoric of both...

    • Robert Ackland and Ann Evans

      What can we learn about the evolution of the abortion debate in Australia over the past ten years using data from the World Wide Web? In this chapter, we analyse hyperlink network and website text content data collected in 2005 and 2015 from websites related to the abortion issue in Australia. We use social network analysis (SNA) and quantitative text analysis in an attempt to answer the following questions: Has the relative prominence or visibility of pro-choice and pro-life websites changed? Have other significant sites joined or left the network? Has language used by each side of the debate changed...

    • Peter Webster

      To anticipate the judgment of later historians on the very recent past has its risks. However, it may be that the decade following the turn of the millennium will come to be seen as a period marked by a shift in the nature of public discussion of the place of religion in public life in the UK. World events, indeed, made it likely that this should be so. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA in 2001, the British involvement in the US-led war in Iraq in 2003 and the terrorist bombings in London in 2005 prompted an outpouring of...

    • Meghan Dougherty

      In 2003 a much-photocopied but unpublished novel by Michael Muhammad Knight was passed around young Muslims across the USA. The novel, calledThe Taqwacores, told the story of a group of young people living in a shared house in Buffalo, New York. Each character embodies some different combination of religious and political subcultures including a burqa-wearing riot grrl, a straight-edge and tattooed Sunni Muslim, a Sufi punk, and the main character – a straight-laced Islamic engineering student – who questions his own identity as he is introduced to the alternative views of his housemates. The novel spoke to young Muslims...

    • Josh Cowls

      This chapter reports findings and insights from ‘Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities’ (BUDDAH), a project led by the British Library, the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London, and the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. This project ran from January 2014 to March 2015. The primary aim of the project was to facilitate the use of a 65 terabyte dataset containing crawls of the .uk domain from 1996 to 2013. The crawls were conducted by the Internet Archive, which captures and archives web pages on a massive scale (Kahle, 1997). This...

    • Jane Winters

      For historians, and researchers in many other humanities disciplines, web archives remain largely an unknown, and certainly underused, primary source. Even within digital humanities, web archives as a focus for study have remained on the fringe, much more likely to be represented on the programme at events such as the ACM Web Science conference than the Annual Conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations (ADHO).¹ There are many possible reasons for this – the particular focus of digital humanities, for example on textual editing; the difficulties of gaining access to web archives within national libraries and archives; the real...

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.