RESAW 2023 Conference Report from the UK Web Archive
By Cui Cui Bodleian Libraries/University of Sheffield Information School, Nicola Bingham, Helena Byrne, British Library, Alice Austin Edinburgh University.
2023 was the fifth RESAW conference. RESAW stands for Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials. It was established in 2012, aims to promote a collaborative European research infrastructure for the study of archived web materials and holds a conference every two years. The 2023 conference was held in Marseille from June 5-6 under the theme ‘Exploring the Archived Web During a Highly Transformative Age’. There was a packed programme with a number of UK based presentations especially from the UK Web Archive teams based at the Bodleian Libraries, British Library and Archive of Tomorrow project partner, University of Edinburgh.
The keynote presentations from the conference were streamed live and the recording of the day two keynote ‘Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online' by Sebastian Majstorovic (European University Institute) is available on the Inspé Aix-Marseille YouTube channel.
In this blog post participants from the UK Web Archive teams have reported back on their conference experience.
Bodleian Libraries/University of Sheffield Information School
Cui Cui, Web Archivist / PhD researcher
The experience of presenting two papers in the fifth RESAW conference turned out to be a highly emotional one for me. The first presentation alongside my fellow web archivist, Alice Austin from University of Edinburgh, marked the end of the Archive of Tomorrow project. The opportunity provided me with a chance to reflect on the work we carried out for the project. The second presentation concluded the initial phase of my PhD research project on participatory web archiving. Presenting at the conference compelled me to summarise the findings from a survey I delivered last year, aiming to gain insights into the current practices of participatory web archiving. This experience not only marked a significant milestone, but also served as a starting point to bring theories and practices together to develop better web archives.
During a panel discussion titled “Interrogating the logics of web archiving in the era of platformization”, Jessica Ogden, Katie Mackinnon, Emily Maemura posed some critical questions about web archiving practices. Who are we collecting for, what shall we collect and how can we approach this process ethically? They particularly put content creators at the centre of considerations and challenged web archivists to critically reflect our practices and ethical considerations. It is assuring that we are not alone in grappling with these complex issues as web archivists. These questions echo with the constant dilemmas we face as web archivists. In particular, the Archive of Tomorrow project highlighted the double-bind situations we encountered when dealing with ethical considerations and piloted engagement work with content creators. From both researchers’ and archivists’ perspectives, it is evidenced that these concerns call for more evidence-based studies and a deeper understanding of the views held by content creators and other wide range of stakeholders.
Overall, the RESAW conference provided a thought-provoking experience. It allowed me to reflect on our work, consolidate my understanding, and recognise the need for continued efforts to address these complex issues.
Nicola Bingham, Lead Curator of Web Archives
I felt very privileged to attend this conference at the Mucemlab in Marseille, set in the courtyard of Fort Saint-Jean, with a stunning mix of old and new architecture and amazing sea views. During the conference, I found numerous presentations informative, engaging, thought-provoking and humorous, however, among them, two in particular, sparked profound reflections on curatorial praxis within the context of my own work.
Henrik Smith-Sivertsen took the audience on a captivating journey into the world of digital music archiving. With a focus on three distinct songs, he illustrated how the mediascapes in which they were published have a significant impact on the archiving process. Through his exploration, he highlighted the challenges of capturing and preserving complex digital objects from social media platforms and streaming services. The question of which version(s) to capture became a pivotal point of discussion, raising awareness of the dynamic nature of digital music and the evolving digital landscape it resides in. A thought-provoking video presentation showcased the different online iterations of Lukas Graham's "7 Years" from 2015. The variations in platforms, remixes, and user-generated content surrounding this song demonstrated the diverse ways in which music proliferates and evolves online. The presentation served as a powerful reminder of the challenges faced by archivists when attempting to capture and preserve such dynamic and multi-faceted digital musical artefacts.
Tiancheng Leo Cao from the University of Texas at Austin's intriguing paper focused on the changing meanings of openness within the museum context. He shed light on the gradual shift from an institution-oriented understanding to an access-oriented interpretation, prioritising the needs and participation of the public. I was struck by how this ideology parallels our thinking in the UK Web Archive where efforts are being made to embed more participation in the curatorial process. By involving communities, ensuring diverse perspectives, and including multiple voices, heritage organisations can create a more inclusive and representative platform for preserving our digital heritage.
Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives
This was my second time attending a RESAW conference. The first I attended was 2017 as part of the Web Archiving Week event held in London when the IIPC Web Archiving Conference and RESAW collaborated on organising a full week of web archiving activities. At RESAW 2023 I co-presented two presentations both on day two of the conference. These were both collaborations that came out of the WARCnet network. The first was a joint presentation with Emily Maemura from (University of Illinois) where we fed back some initial findings from the series of workshops we facilitated on ‘Describing Collections with Datasheets for Datasets’. The second presentation was a joint presentation with Sharon Healy (Maynooth University) on ‘Assessing the Scholarly Use of Web Archives in Ireland’. In this presentation we highlighted a section from a much larger report that will be published as part of the WARCnet Papers and Special Reports.
A key highlight for me in the programme was the session 'Building the Next Generation of Web Archive Analysis Service'. This panel gave an overview of the development of the Archives Unleashed project from 2017. The project is now winding up and will be supported by the Internet Archive who will be releasing a subscription service to Archives Research Compute Hub (ARCH) this summer. I've been lucky enough to attend Archives Unleashed events in 2017 and 2019 so it was really great to see how the project has changed over time. I wish the Archives Unleashed team all the best.
University of Edinburgh
Alice Austin, Web Archivist
The Archive of Tomorrow project team took two papers to RESAW this year. The first was a deep-dive into the Trans Health sub-category within the Talking About Health collection. The second, presented jointly with my fellow web archivist Cui Cui of the Bodleian Libraries, delivered a condensed version of the project’s Final Report, and reflected on the challenges, wins and losses of the project as a whole.
A few related themes emerged from this year’s papers. A number of speakers reflected on the value of the archived web as a source for ‘bottom-up’ perspectives on the impact of online spaces in the development of narratives at a personal and social level. Arguing that the events of 9/11 galvanised emerging web archiving efforts, Ian Milligan’s paper explored how the resultant archived pages provide a rich source for future historians wanting to understand how that day evolved; Dana Diminescu’s paper on the archive of the ‘Comme a la maison’ platform examined how changes in the language of hospitality used online can reflect changes in societal understanding of the migrant experience; and Anya Shchetvina’s paper discussed how web-based communication objects can become recontextualised as memory objects.
Another theme concerned how to do web archiving in an age of ‘platformisation’. A trio of papers by Emily Maemura, Jess Ogden, and Kate MacKinnon explored this in detail, raising important questions about how web archiving practices might better serve the communities that they draw from. Camille Riou considered the vulnerability of data in a capitalist world in the context of the withdrawal of Twitter’s API for academic research, and Cade Diehm and Benjamin Royer of the New Design Congress presented an excellent overview of the sector’s readiness to grapple with issues of the polycrisis such as colonialism, privatisation and datafication.
The sixth RESAW Conference will be held in 2025 at University of Siegen in Germany. The theme for the conference is ‘Histories of the Datafied Web: Infrastructures, metrics, aesthetics’. More details about the conference and the call for papers will be announced in due course.