Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. Member, National Academy of Engineering, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Internet Hall of Fame
When I started the Internet Archive 25 years ago, I focused our non-profit library on digital collections: preserving web pages, archiving television news, and digitizing books. The Internet Archive was seen as innovative and unusual.
Now all libraries are increasingly electronic, and necessarily so. To fight disinformation, to serve readers during the pandemic, and to be relevant to 21st-century learners, libraries must become digital.
But just as the Web increased people’s access to information exponentially, an opposite trend has evolved. Global media corporations—emboldened by the expansive copyright laws they helped craft and the emerging technology that reaches right into our reading devices—are exerting absolute control over digital information.
These two conflicting forces—towards unfettered availability and completely walled access to information—have defined the last 25 years of the Internet. How we handle this ongoing clash will define our civic discourse in the next 25 years.
If we fail to forge the right path, publishers’ business models could eliminate one of the great tools for democratizing society: our independent libraries.
The following is a guest post by Nicholas Taylor, Information Technology Specialist for the Repository Development Group at the Library of Congress.
Prompted by questions from Library of Congress staff on how to more effectively use web archives to answer research questions, I recently gave a presentation on “Using Wayback Machine for Research” (PDF).
I thought that readers of The Signal might be interested in this topic as well. This post covers the outline of the presentation.
The Wayback Machine that many people are familiar with is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive is an NDIIPP partner and a Founding Member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium.
Their mission includes creating an archive of the entire public web; the Wayback Machine is the interface for accessing it. While the Internet Archive has been primarily responsible for the development of Wayback Machine, it is an open source project.
Internet Archive also devised the name “Wayback Machine;” it is a reference to The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show’s homophonous “WABAC” Machine, a time machine itself named in the convention of mid-century mainframe computers (e.g., ENIAC, UNIVAC, MANIAC, etc.). The contemporary Wayback Machine thus appropriately evokes both the idea of traveling back in time and powerful computing technology (necessary for web archiving).
Although people are increasingly turning to Google to search for information, a corporate search engine is not the same as a trusted librarian.
And while libraries are used to buying and preserving books, they are now often unable to buy and own digital materials because of publisher licensing restrictions.
The tension between the interests of business and the public was the focus of a conversation hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on April 28.
Wendy Hanamura moderated the event with guest panelists Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User; Darius Kazemi, an internet artist and cofounder of Feel Train, a creative technology cooperative in Portland, Oregon; and Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures.
For many of us, for better or for worse, the internet is home.
Our communities are here, because many of them could not exist any other way.
Superfans, shitposters, amateur experts, wiki nerds, grizzled forum moderators, obsessive sneaker enthusiasts, and hobbyists who spend a substantial amount of their time photographing vintage Furbies in human clothes, for example—the cultural and creative output of these communities is enormous and ever growing.
Look: It’s cold. The news is depressing. New movies and TV shows have ground to a halt. It won’t stop snowing. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so tack on six more weeks of winter. Time to curl up with a good book.