09 April 2019
XKCD, “Click and Drag”. © Randall Munroe, 2012 https://xkcd.com/1110/
We're really excited to announce two new Collaborative Doctoral Awards for research into web comics, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We are working with City, University of London and University of the Arts London to engage in new research on digital comics creation, reading and collecting in the UK.
This work will help us to understand collection management challenges for the diverse and innovative field of web comics in the UK. The knowledge generated by this research will not only help us to build collections of web comics, but will help those writing, reading, collecting and researching web comics. We will be able to apply the research more widely too, supporting our development as we explore complex digital publications through our work on Emerging Formats.
Understanding UK digital comics information and publishing practices: From creation to consumption
In partnership with City, University of London, this research will take a User Experience centred approach. It will examine the use of tools, technologies and sharing of information in the production, publication, collecting and reading of web comics. We're interested in what motivates people and how this informs their behaviour and use of particular technologies. Knowing the sorts of platforms and tools people use will help us prioritise and plan our own collections and collection management requirements. More importantly, knowing what's important to people in how they choose to create, share, and read web comics will help us understand what's important in building our collections.
At City, University of London this PhD will be supervised by Dr Ernesto Priego and Dr Stephann Makri at the Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design. Ernesto is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship. His research covers a wide range of themes on digital and print comics, and also digital information management practice. Stephann's work focuses on information and behaviour in digital contexts. His research has covered legal information and news, as well as how readers work with libraries and archives.
Collecting UK Digital Comics: social, cultural and technological factors for cultural institutions
In partnership with the University of the Arts London, this research will investigate the form and content of digital comics, exploring the differences between comics that are adaptive, hypertextual, interactive, multimedia, motion based and experimental. It will look at how cultural institutions respond to innovative digital material, and the cultural, social and ethical questions that inform collection building. There are strong links between the characteristics of digital comics, and other types of innovative publication we are considering under our Emerging Formats work. The collection management challenges are not solely technological, and this research will help us understand the wider cultural and social questions that influence the way that digital comics can be represented and used within the Library.
At the University of the Arts London, this PhD will be supervised by Professor Roger Sabin and Dr Ian Hague, and the student will be able to join the newly-formed Comics Research Hub. Roger is the author of Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels (Phaidon, 1996) and is series editor for Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels. His work has helped establish the academic field of Comics Studies in the UK. Ian's research has been on the form of digital comics and cultural and social studies of comics. He is the director of the Comics Forum annual conference.
The awards support fees and provide a stipend for 3 years for the PhD student. More details on how we work with PhD students can be found on our Research Collaboration pages.
03 June 2017
On Wednesday 14th June, we'll be discussing the potential of the archived web in understanding contemporary society and politics.
Our event is chaired by Eliane Glaser, author of Get Real: How to see through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life, and features contributions from Andy Jackson (British Library), Jefferson Bailey (Internet Archive), Jane Winters (University of London) and Valérie Schafer (French National Centre for Scientific Research).
The first web archive, the Internet Archive, began in 1996. Since then, many university and national libraries around the world have started web archiving initiatives. The British Library began in 2004, and, since 2013 has collected an annual snapshot of all UK web sites. As such, there are very rich collections built up around the world that have documented political and social movements both at international and local levels. For example, the Library of Congress has led collections on the Arab Spring, and the UK Web Archive has collections on past General Elections.
As libraries have gained more experience with building collections of the archived web, so researchers and other users of web archives have developed new methodologies and tools for analysing the collections. As advances are made, so new challenges arise and are identified. The web itself is changing, with one of the biggest challenges for archiving being the use of social media - generating huge amounts of data, but often being highly time dependent and reliant on specific software and hardware to interpret.
As with any large and complex collection, context remains an important consideration. Web archive collections are informed by curatorial or academic judgement on what might be the most significant websites, and may not reflect the most popular sites at a time. When it comes to reporting current events, social media and the web can be portrayed as more "democratic" and open to wider participation than more traditional news media. However, communication on the web includes rumour, satire and misdirection, alongside eyewitness reports and a whole range of data sources and types. Technology to archive the web lags behind the technology to create web sites, so some elements of a web page may be missed by web archiving tools. Additionally, web archiving at a national level often takes place within a legal framework that restricts collecting within national borders. The omissions of web archives can be a useful and interesting source for understanding the structure of web, but, as with other forms of analysis, researchers need information on what decisions were made, and under what conditions, a collection was made.
These are some of the issues that we'll be discussing on 14th June. We'd love you to join us and contribute to the debate. More details and booking can be found on our Whats On pages.
Our panel discussion forms part of the Digital Conversations series and also connects to a week of conferences, hackathons and other events in London that talk about recent advances in web archiving and research on the archived web.You can follow discussions from the conferences on Twitter, using our hashtag #WAweek2017
28 March 2017
Polly Russell, Lead Curator for Politics and Public Life, reports on our event to mark International Women's Day 2017: 'Rebels in the Archives'.
Earlier this month, to mark International Women’s Day, the British Library hosted ‘Rebels in the Archives’, a sell-out panel discussion with four women who, in different ways, have uncovered the hidden histories of women’s lives in Britain’s past.
The evening kicked off with Heidi Safia Mirza, Professor of Race, Faith and Culture at Goldsmith’s College and author of Young Female and Black. Heidi discussed how Women of Colour have been rendered invisible by the absences and omissions which characterise most representations of the past. Attend to the archive, look beyond the obvious and take responsibility for finding and accounting for Women of Colour when researching women’s lives was her message.
Next up was Abi Morgan, BAFTA and Emmy Award winning writer and producer whose film Suffragette introduced cinema audiences around the world to the story of how working class women fought to get the vote in the UK. Abi described the process of writing the film’s script, how libraries and archives held the key to the narrative and character and of the totemic importance of archival objects – she described the tiny purse Emily Wilding Davison was holding when she fatefully stepped in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby on the 4th June 1913 and how this brought to life the fragility and courage of ‘extraordinary sacrifice made by the ordinary’.
From left to right the 'Rebels in the Archives' Panel: Heidi Mirza; Abi Morgan; Margaretta Jolly; Debi Withers; Jill Liddington. Image courtesy of Polly Russell.
Writer and historian Jill Liddington followed Abi and heroically compressed a life’s work into a splendid 15 minute presentation. Jill, the author of a seminal account of northern working-class women’s contribution to the Suffragist movement, One Hand Tied Behind Us, detailed how archives and libraries held the key to a history of women which had previously been omitted from historical record.
The final speaker of the evening, curator, researcher and digital expert Debi Withers, brought us bang up to date with a discussion of how digital archives and catalogues have the potential, if opened up to tagging and searching, to widen access to and enable links between feminist archives.
The evening’s discussions were expertly chaired by Margaretta Jolly, Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex and someone directly responsible for increasing the number of women rebels in the British Library archives – Margaretta contributed 60 Women’s Liberation Movement oral histories to the British Library as part of the Sisterhood & After project she led in 2013.
After audience questions Margaretta concluded the evening by noting that though the panel employed diverse approaches to understanding the past, worked across different formats and spoke to different audiences, their work was evidence that archives and libraries are places where the rebels of the past could b e uncovered so th at rebels of the future may thrive.
The event was developed in association with the University of Sussex and was supported by the Living Knowledge Network.
05 June 2015
I was a women’s libber
I couldn’t - tell me, should it be wouldn’t - tread in the master’s step
and didn’t mind if I trod on his feet
when I came to Spare Rib
I found myself right behind Carnaby street
and started to make things happen
we made space
we made space we made space
that wasn’t full of someone elses junk
tried out leading different lives
of language and expression that we made and made our own
….?Yes. No templates. We learnt to make sense
we got and gave strength like the turning tide subverted debate
redefined ourselves made our own beds
would do what it takes and do it in public
reclaim the night re-arrange furniture
at Spare Rib bops I turned up the music
knowing I was in among a movement
of women saying no and women saying yes
on their own terms in a corset or a dress
how were we to second guess in WEREN’T BORN A MAN
Dana had chosen the burlesque
(if you look at issue 24 from the cover to its contents
you can follow the contortions that we went through)
I am 64 musing on debt
to those who’ve gone before
and to crowds I’ve never met —they chipped in and bought
(not then an easy thing to do) and did what they could
to make Spare Rib what it was, keep us going, carry on—
to all these and more I'm pleased to say we’ve been repaid in spades.
I feel my pulse quickening, hear unlocking doors, find a new space to breathe
and reflect that’s free and accessible
where, packaged respectfully and according to rules
4000 + individuals’ copyrights are protected
just as they spoke about what they felt mattered
living in hope that they’d change the world
so it would listen to daughters.
all 239 issues?
poor girl she always loved larking
they’ve digitised the whole run
they have to clear their clutter
digital won't last. Why are
you so depressing we're
on a different planet now she's getting the very best of British care
to make the most of its resources for research and educational purposes
the British Library simply has to share—
so the old girl’s alive and kicking and now everybody’s tweeting
she’s even started waving out there in the mainstream
where there’s no-one who can stop her
or the thousands like her from igniting
and combusting some have only just discovered—
a radical unruly very well and truly CATHARTIC ENERGY!
Rose Ades worked at Spare Rib 1972-77. She became a Solicitor, joined the 10-Speed Trots, lobbied for cycling and as Head of the Cycling Centre of Excellence at Transport for London reconfigured cycling and helped to make it popular.
28 May 2015
From today, every edition of Spare Rib magazine will be available to be viewed by anyone online for free. This project began back in June 2013 when, partly inspired by the positive response to the British Library’s Women’s Liberation Movement oral history project, I started to think about whether it would be possible to digitise and make freely available online a full run of Spare Rib magazines. I knew that the magazine played an important part in many women’s lives in the 1970s and 1980s – my mother was a sometime Spare Rib reader and had given me a copy of Spare Rib’s book called Girls Are Powerful when I was about 10 years old. I loved that book and I held onto the idea that women were equal to men as I grew from a young girl into a woman.
So it was with great curiosity that I called the British Library’s collection of Spare Rib magazines up from storage – 239 issues arrived at my desk on a single trolley. I started looking through them – and I was captivated. Few titles sum up an era and a movement like Spare Rib. With its commitment to challenging the status quo, Spare Rib battled oppression and gave a voice to the struggles of diverse groups of women over the 21 years it was in print (1972-1993). Bold in design, content and tone, the magazine set out from the outset to challenge, debate and discuss everything from the politics of housework to the situation for women in El Salvador to the rights of lesbian mothers.
Spare Rib pre-launch manifesto - The founders of Spare Rib set out to set the record straight on Women’s Liberation, which had been trivialised and ridiculed by the mainstream press. They sought to reach out to all women and in their manifesto they explain what is wrong with women’s magazines of the day and how their alternative would offer realistic solutions to the problems experienced by women. Usage terms: Facsimile of Spare Rib manifesto © Marsha Rowe Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence
Until now, the full run of magazines has only been available for consultation in the British Library Reading Rooms and a few other libraries and archives. The British Library’s digitised Spare Rib resources change this and make the magazine accessible to everyone.
We have developed a curated introductory site on the British Library’s website with a selection of more than 300 stories, cartoons and images from the magazine and 20 introductory articles written by former Spare Rib contributors and British Library curators, designed as a way in to the content for anyone experiencing the magazine for the first time.
The British Library Spare Rib site will link through to the Jisc Journals Archive site, where the full run of 239 issues of Spare Rib magazine is hosted. This Spare Rib resource is free to access, and is fully searchable, meaning that researchers, historians, students and anyone interested in feminism or activism can search across all editions for the first time, transforming the way in which the magazines can be accessed, discovered and re-used.
Funny, irreverent, intelligent and passionate, Spare Rib was a product of its time which is also somehow timeless. It should come with a word of warning, however, it’s difficult to tear yourself away.
Photograph of Polly with former Spare Rib Collective members and project advisors. From left to right, Ruthie Petrie, Rose Ades, Marsha Rowe, British Library curator Polly Russell, Sue O’ Sullivan and project volunteer Louise Kimpton-Nye.
Social Science Curator
27 February 2015
This week, we announced our new online course Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life. This is the first online course of its type that is using the Library's collections, and we are developing and delivering it with the Centre for the Study of Ideologies at the University of Nottingham. The course will start in May, and run on the FutureLearn platform.
During the course, learners will explore and debate issues such as: freedom, community, place, justice and choice. These concepts form the building blocks of our political views but they mean different things to different people. We'll be exploring how those words come to hold different meanings and how political ideas can impact on everyday lives.
There are two academic leads on the course. Mathew Humphrey, Professor of Political Theory, works on environmental political theory and theories of ideology. Maiken Umbach, Professor of Modern History, researches the relationship between political ideas and material culture (eg through the built environment or private photography).
The 5-week course draws on themes and items used in our 2013 exhibition, Propaganda Power and Persuasion. One of the most enjoyable aspects of curating that exhibition was giving public tours and talking to people as they visited the exhibition. This is a subject that everybody has an opinion on and experience of, and this new course will provide a new space in which to continue discussions started during that exhibition, and to look at the subject in a new light.
An exciting aspect of this course is that we'll be calling on learners to post images to an online gallery, contributing to the debate on what freedom or protest or community might mean. The online nature of the course means that people can join from all over the world, and there are no previous qualifications or experience required to take part.
12 December 2014
Rachael Kotarski, Content Specialist for Datasets, gives us an update on the ODIN project:
You may or may not have noticed from various blog posts that we love persistent identifiers at the British Library, especially for data. There's no better way to tell the difference between two datasets – or books, papers or people, than by checking their identifiers.
While these identifiers are important parts of the research machinery, they haven't been as well connected as they could be. Over the past two years the British Library has been involved in the EU-funded FP7 project, the ORCID and DataCite Interoperability Network – ODIN. The aim of the project was to investigate where the integration of identifiers for research objects (primarily research datasets) and the people involved in creating them could be improved.
There were many strands to this work carried out in parallel over the past two years. One that we have been heavily involved in is proving the concept of identifier use in humanities and social science, as compared with high energy physics data archives.
Proof of Concept in Humanities and Social Science
As part of the ODIN work here at the British Library, we have worked very closely with three major data archives in the UK to develop workflows for object and people identifiers. We worked with the UK Data Archive (UKDA, a node of the UK Data Service), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the MRC National survey of Health and Development (MRC NSHD).
While these data archives all exist within a similar subject area, they all have different challenges in identifying long-term, dynamic and historical data. They have also all been at different stages in their use of identifiers. Despite these differences, the ultimate approach has been similar across humanities and social sciences, as well as in high energy physics:
- Object identifiers are given to datasets as part of the ingest process
- For highly dynamic and aggregated datasets, it may be possible to assign identifiers to the subset of data as downloaded
- Identifiers for authors and contributors are requested as part of the submission information, and can be associated with other forms of identity or profile management at the archive
- Identifiers for legacy datasets are added in a bulk-process
Feedback to the project has helped to direct technical changes to the way in which DataCite and ORCID work.
If you run a data repository, find out more about DataCite in the UK. If you create, contribute to or manage research data, see if you have an International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) or consider signing up for an ORCID iD.
Not all the reports from all the strands of work are available yet, but once they are they will be linked from http://odin-project.eu/project-outputs/deliverables/.
18 November 2014
During the months leading up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, The British Library participated in a Web Archiving project to reflect the debate in Scotland and across the UK. This project was led by the National Library of Scotland. In this guest post, Amy Todman, Referendum Curator at the NLS, explains more about Collecting the Referendum.
The Scottish Independence Referendum was a hugely significant international event that captured the world’s attention. Questions raised by the Referendum, on all sides of the debate, have cut across Scotland’s cultural, social, intellectual and political life. The National Library of Scotland has been at the heart of this event, collecting material in a wide variety of formats in order to preserve its material record for future generations.
Collecting the Referendum is a library-wide project, developed as a response to the complexity of issues related to September’s constitutional debate, and at the behest of the Scottish Government. It aims to produce and make accessible an un-biased, representative and comprehensive collection. We aim to capture the rich cultural and artistic legacy of the Referendum as well as what might be considered the more obviously political. The collection now includes material from a growing number of campaign groups from ‘Leith says Aye’ and ‘Academics Together’ to ‘Women for Independence’ and ‘Conservative Friends of the Union’.
Raising public awareness of our collecting activity is important and is being explored through various channels, both online and by face-to-face engagement. Our project web page encourages donations and also highlights the role of other collecting organisations, with whom we are exploring the development of referendum collections over the coming months and years.
Web archiving is an important element of collecting a contemporary national debate. We have been working in collaboration with the British Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University to create an archive that reflects that debate. The web archive collection contains more than 1,000 blogs, campaign sites, news pages, contributions from think tanks, trade unions, churches and arts organisations, as well as twitter feeds from Members of the Scottish Parliament. Online material is collected under Legal Deposit regulations, and, when complete, will be accessible in the reading rooms of the National Library of Scotland, British Library, Bodleian and other UK Legal Deposit Libraries.
At the NLS, Collecting the Referendum is part of a wider development to expand capabilities for managing the challenges of cross-format and hybrid collections. As such it includes material in a wide variety of formats: publications in print and digital, analogue and born-digital archives and records, moving image and sound, as well as websites and social media streams. Ephemeral material such as leaflets and flyers are included as well as monographs, serials and newspapers, official publications, reports from a wide range of think tanks and research institutes, and moving image, in partnership with the Scottish Screen Archive.
Building relationships is key to developing the collection. To support this, the NLS held two public referendum open days, in July and August 2014, giving us an opportunity to raise awareness of the Referendum collection and build on its positive relationships with campaign groups, political parties and individuals involved in the debate.
The first open day was structured around the main Scottish political parties and their differing responses to the referendum debate. Representatives from Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish National Party were invited to NLS to engage with the Collecting the Referendum project and discuss issues related to the referendum with readers, NLS staff and members of the public.
As well as these representatives, there were several displays of material from NLS collections. These included ephemeral material and official publications from the developing referendum collection as well as historic materials from the rare books collections to put these more recent items within a wider context.
NLS web archivist Eilidh took part in the event, using her knowledge of the web archiving aspect of the referendum collection to engage with the public about the collection. As well as discussing the web collection with staff, participants of the open day, and the public, Eilidh also talked through the Library’s approach to collecting the web and the practicalities of researching the new collection.
The second open day followed a similar format to the first, although this event focussed on campaigning groups rather than political parties. Again, six groups were invited, two each from the yes and no sides of the debate, and two neutral organisations.
While the political parties, perhaps by chance, had arranged themselves by their respective positions on the vote, with the yes’s on one side and the no’s on the other, the campaign groups chose differently. As on the first day, each group claimed a table and arranged their campaign literature on it. Here though, groups from the ‘no’ side chose to sit alongside those from ‘yes’, across and in-between those that were neutral. There was no attempt to separate out along the lines of the debate and those who attended could talk easily to campaigners from either side. A particular group of undecided voters, in their mid-20s, worked their way around every group, debating and discussing with all. We also welcomed back several of our former representatives from the first open day who were keen to continue conversations begun the month before.
Mirroring the richness of our growing collection of ephemeral referendum materials, the open day highlighted the diversity and activity of sectoral campaign groups. Women for Independence and National Collective were asked to attend, along with Academics Together and Women Together. Future of the UK and Scotland (an ESRC funded research group) and a well-established group local to Edinburgh, Open Democracy were also approached, providing an important neutral voice.
Displays highlighted the archival aspect of the referendum collection, including materials from previous Scottish home rule and independence campaigns. Items included printed ephemera (like leaflets and flyers) but extended to unpublished material such as handwritten campaign diaries, press releases and digital correspondence.
Eilidh returned to lend her expertise, this time preparing a short text to introduce web archiving to the public, complementing her verbal explanations and demonstrations. Diane Milligan (NLS Digital Assets Team) was also able to participate in this event and was on hand to discuss the ins and outs of collecting digital material.
During the open days myself and other staff members were available to talk with representatives and members of the public about the referendum collection and to explain the significance of their individual contributions. It was useful to show people the kind of leaflets and flyers that we want for the collection, and how these fit into a wider historical context. Our appeal for donations from the public was also assisted by press attention resulting in a broadcast on STV.
Artist and co-community designer Dr Priscilla Cheung-Nainby also participated in the day’s events. Priscilla has worked on referendum-related issues in a variety of venues and contexts, exploring creatively with communities some of the ways that a ‘yes’, or a ‘no’ vote might practically affect our everyday lives. We worked together to produce a simple framework for engaging with issues around the referendum. Priscilla’s intervention provided a gentle way of holding conversations about the issues around the referendum, and offered our visitors a place to step back from the campaign groups and to reflect on how they felt about the forthcoming vote.
Indeed, such relatively small-scale community engagements with the referendum are an important part of the developing collection, representing some of the many facets of discussion that might otherwise be less easy to capture.
Developing an unbiased Referendum collection that will be useful to future generations of researchers requires pro-active work and collaboration in order to respond quickly and flexibly to what is undoubtedly an extremely significant event in Scotland’s history.
Social Science blog recent posts
- Two new PhD opportunities for Web Comics
- What can the Archived Web tell us about politics and society in the 21st century?
- Report on Rebels
- GOOD VIBRATIONS
- Spare Rib Magazine enters the digital age
- Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life
- ODIN - Linking datasets and their creators
- Collecting the Referendum
- Saturday 15th November: Too much information? Join the debate
- Exploring Play – a free, open, online course