THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

3 posts categorized "Religion"

02 November 2020

Digital archaeology in the web of links: reconstructing a late-90s web sphere

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By Dr. Peter Webster, Independent Scholar, Historian and Consultant

Fiber cables for the internet

 

The historian of the late 1990s has a problem. The vast bulk of content from the period is no longer on the live web; there are few, if any, indications of what has been lost – no inventory of the 1990s web against which to check. Of the content that was captured by the Internet Archive (more or less the only archive of the Anglophone web of the period), only a superficial layer is exposed to full-text search, and the bulk may only be retrieved by a search for the URL. We do not know what was never archived, and in the archive it is difficult to find what we might want, since there is no means of knowing the URL of a lost resource. Sometimes we need, then, to understand the archived web using only the technical data about itself that it can be made to disclose.

Niels Brügger has defined a web sphere as ‘web material … related to a topic, a theme, an event or a geographic area’.  My paper at the EWA conference presents a method of reconstructing a web sphere, much of which is lost from the live web and exists only in the Internet Archive: the web estate of the many conservative Christian campaign groups in the UK in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This method of web sphere reconstruction is based not on page content but on the relationships between sites, i.e., the web of hyperlinks. The method is iterative, and tracks back and forth between big data and small. Individual archived pages and directories, printed sources, the scholarly record itself, and even traces of previous unsuccessful attempts at web archiving come into play, as does a large dataset held by the British Library. From the more than 2 billion lines in the UK Host Link Graph dataset it is possible to extract the outlines of this particular web sphere.

You can watch Peter Webster’s presentation on his website peterwebster.me

 

Previous studies using a similar method are: 

Webster, Peter. 2019. Lessons from cross-border religion in the Northern Irish web sphere: understanding the limitations of the ccTLD as a proxy for the national web. In The Historical Web and Digital Humanities: the Case of National Web domains, eds Niels Brügger & Ditte Laursen, 110-23. London: Routledge.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/yms5-9v95     

Webster, Peter. 2017. Religious discourse in the archived web: Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, and the sharia law controversy of 2008. In: The Web as History, eds Niels Brügger & Ralph Schroeder, 190-203. London: UCL Press. (Available Open Access at:  https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/84010)

 

14 January 2013

Religion, politics and the law: a new special collection

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It has been over two years in the making, but I am delighted to be able to say that my own special collection in the UK Web Archive is now online.

A couple of years ago, long before coming to the BL, I joined the Researchers and the UK Web Archive project at the Library which brought together a group of scholars to guest-curate special collections on our own particular research interests. As an historian, I was interested in the marked sharpening of the terms of discourse about the place of religion in British public life, particularly since 9/11 and the London bombings in 2005. It struck me that a good deal of this debate had already shifted online, and so new ways and means of capturing and preserving it were going to be needed. And so, the ‘politics of religion collection’ (as it was then known) was born. Religion politics law thumbnail

As has been noted many times in this blog, the problem for web archiving is that we’re dealing with other people’s copyright work, and so an individual permission is needed for each site. I have a long list of sites which I would dearly love to add to the collection, but for which (for various reasons) we’ve had no response. So, if you are the owner of Protest the Pope, or Holy Redundant, or Christians in Politics, please get in touch. For now, even if the collection cannot be anything like comprehensive, I do hope that it is at least coherent.

There are particular strengths, and some gaps. It includes many campaigning organisations, both secularist and religious, and is heavy on the conservative Christian organisations about which I myself know most. It is relatively light on non-Christian faiths, since I know the field much less well. It is still very much open, however, and so suggestions of sites that ought to be included are very welcome, via this blog or via the UK Web Archive site.

See a previous post about my progress in 2012.

Peter Webster

24 December 2011

Advent Calendar: December 24th

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City of Sanctuary

'City of Sanctuary is a movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK'.

Archived on: December 24th 2008

City-sanctuary
Still available on live web? Yes

Archived by: The British Library

Subject Classifications: Society & Culture
Society & Culture > Communities
Arts & Humanities > Religion

Special collection? No

Other instances? Yes - 6 in total (2008 - 2011)