Category Archives: News

“Jump Cut” is a Model Open Journal: Digitized from Microfilm & Hosted on Archive.org

Jump Cut” is a model for open access journals. When the Internet Archive digitized older issues of “Jump Cut” from microfilm, we found that it had already been posted, in textual form, by the publisher. When we reached out to see if we could open up the microfilm version for free public access and download, they were enthusiastic. Here we wanted to share more background on “Jump Cut” and why openness is important for them.

Selection of covers from Jump Cut, now online from scanned microfilm at archive.org.

From the beginning, Jump Cut was all about being accessible and uncensored.

Now, the alternative media criticism journal has achieved maximum exposure: All of its back issues are available digitally for free through the Internet Archive.

John Hess, Chuck Kleinhans, and Julia Lesage launched the publication when they were graduate students at Indiana University in 1974. At first, they produced it themselves on typewriters and distributed it on inexpensive, tabloid newsprint.

“It was positioned as a counter-culture journal. Their impetus for creating it was to provide a voice to the disenfranchised, those not normally published in academic journals,” said Jeremy Butler, professor emeritus of TV and film studies at the University of Alabama. “This has involved writers from left perspective, underrepresented people of color, LGBTQ writers and others.”

Jump Cut has never accepted advertising and being independent has always been its driving principle. It is a cross between an arcane scholarly journal and a pop culture film criticism magazine that covers a range of topics, such as pornography, that would be considered taboo in mainstream publications, said Butler, who has written for the journal himself.

The journal uses language that is familiar to academics, but not too obscure as to turn off readers. As a peer-reviewed journal, Jump Cut is an avenue for scholars—particularly junior faculty with diverse perspectives—to publish and earn citation credits.

In 2004, the journal moved online and discovered an international audience. After Hess and Kleinhans died, Lesage wanted to preserve the publication’s history and plan for its future.

“There’s so much that’s invisible in our culture, so much that’s hidden behind structural and class divides.”

Jeremy Butler, professor emeritus of TV and film studies at the University of Alabama

Butler, who was a doctoral student of Kleinhans at Northwestern University and recently retired from Alabama, helped Lesage convert and archive some of the text from older issues of Jump Cut. The Internet Archive provided a home for the files as an institutional host. Recently, as part of a microfilm digitizing effort, the Archive scanned images, photos and text from all 59 issues of Jump Cut and made them available in a collection.

“Our goal was always to reach as many people as possible,” says Lesage, who says she was “totally ecstatic” to learn the entire collection was preserved by the Archive. “Now people will be able to see the images that we ran with those early articles.”

In addition to the journals, Kleinhans and Lesage have had syllabi and lecture notes from a variety of film and media courses they taught digitized and added to the Internet Archive collection. “I’ve tried to encourage scholars to archive their own papers and research materials,” says Lesage, who hopes the collection will be used by students, teachers and researchers. “It’s a treasure that scholars should take advantage of and not leave it to their heirs to try and decide what to do with all these boxes of papers.”

Butler, who is  a regular user of the Wayback Machine, movies and audio files through the Archive for his own research and enjoyment, said preserving the course materials and the complete Jump Cut collection is exciting for scholars and the public at large.

“It provides access to voices that people would not normally hear,” Butler said of broader new availability of the media studies journal. “There’s so much that’s invisible in our culture, so much that’s hidden behind structural and class divides. Jump Cut has prided itself on providing a voice to the unspoken…It might open up a whole new world to readers that they never even knew existed.”

The Sacred Geometry of Respect, Trust, and Equity

By Coraline Ada Ehmke

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts exploring the real-world implications of the Decentralized Web Principles.

Coraline Ada Ehmke is the creator of the Contributor Covenant and the author of the Hippocratic License, an open source license designed to promote and protect human rights. In 2021, Coraline founded the Organization for Ethical Source and currently serves as its Executive Director.

In his 1976 paper “Communication and Cultural Domination,” sociologist and media critic Herbert Schiller warned of a future in which the cultural lives of individuals around the globe would be shaped and dictated by a small number of private media interests. The domination of US tech corporations in the online world today is the grim fulfillment of that prophecy. 

Access to the vast store of collective human knowledge is increasingly predicated on the surrender of our rights of privacy, free association, and digital autonomy to gatekeepers like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, whose entire business models depend on the normalization of surveillance capitalism. And digital colonization — the violent and repressive imposition of Western values and taxonomies — is a fundamental component of their success.

“The internet is implicated in contemporary power structures, its promise tarnished by unaccountable digital corporations, data extractivism, the marketisation of democracy and network capitalism’s connivance with surveillance states.”

(Anita Gurumurthy and Nandini Chami, “Towards a political practice of empowerment in digital times: a feminist commentary from the global South”)

Realizing the potential of the web to democratize the advance of human knowledge while preserving cultural autonomy and promoting universal human rights requires more than a begrudging (and often patronizing) nod to “global perspectives” interpreted through the lens of the Silicon Valley ethos. Achieving just outcomes requires actively prioritizing both equal access and equitable participation across social and cultural boundaries.

And this begins with centering the foundational principles of mutual respect, trust, and equity.

“Tolerance is the privilege of the powerful: it is the granting of permission to deviate from the norms of the majority. And it comes with the unspoken threat that this permission can be revoked at any time.”

Mutual Respect

Achieving mutual respect is essential for effective communication and collaboration, and plays an especially critical role in conflict resolution. 

It is important to distinguish between respect and tolerance. Tolerance is the privilege of the powerful: it is the granting of permission to deviate from the norms of the majority. And it comes with the unspoken threat that this permission can be revoked at any time. Asking the powerless to accept mere “tolerance” is asking them to endure their oppression for the comfort or convenience of their oppressors.

“That is the problem with toleration: others determine if they tolerate you, which rules and norms you need to meet in order to be allowed to participate.”

(Petra De Sutter and Bruno De Lille, “Wij willen niet getolereerd worden, wij willen respect”)

Honoring and respecting personal, social, and cultural differences in our digital communities starts with defining clear and consensual social contracts that establish the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of participation. 

Codes of conduct are important in creating and sustaining an environment of mutual respect, but in order to be effective they must be enforced consistently and fairly. This requires the additional layer of clear and transparent governance. Fostering a culture of mutual respect starts with making social contracts explicit, continually reassessing their impact, and evolving their conditions to address changes both within a community and in the world at large.

Sustaining a culture that respects our differences, rather than simply tolerating them, creates opportunities to leverage the richness and diversity of our communities for the greater good.

Trust

Building trust begins with an expectation of positive intent, and develops over time through mutual accountability. Trust is earned and sustained by accepting responsibility for our actions and their outcomes.

“Without trust, conflict is politics. With trust, conflict is the pursuit of truth.”

(Patrick Lencioni, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”)

Social scientists recognize two main forms of trust: cognitive trust and affective trust.

Cognitive trust is valued predominantly in Western cultures and is based on confidence in someone else’s skills and reliability. It is fostered by a continual display of competence and reliability, and is essentially transactional.

Affective trust is more prevalent in the Global South and Asia. This form of trust develops from a sense of emotional closeness, demonstrations of empathy, or even feelings of friendship. It is relational rather than transactional.

As with respect, trust must be considered within the context of power dynamics. Distrust toward those with power often has little or no real consequence to them, but withholding trust from the disadvantaged or disenfranchised only magnifies the impact of systemic inequalities. This is why it’s essential that those with power earn and sustain trust through what they do, while, in turn, extending trust to others by accepting and recognizing them for who they are.

Trust in a global context requires acknowledging, valuing, and developing both kinds of trust in our communities.

Equity

Equity is difficult to define, because there are so few examples of true equity in our world to draw from. One way of thinking about equity is a lack of disparity in agency across racial, ethnic, gendered, and other dimensions. The meaningful pursuit of equity requires interrupting the societal, institutional, and interpersonal injustices that sustain these disparities.

“New manifestations of racism and other forms of oppression continue to emerge and outpace our mechanisms and capacities to solve them… To be achieved and sustained, equity needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.”

(Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide, Annie E. Casey Foundation)

Equity is not synonymous with equality. Equality assumes that everyone has the same needs and can succeed given the same opportunities. Meritocracy, widely heralded in the online world as a force for equality, is founded on the idea that our differences are irrelevant to success, rather than a contributor to success. This dangerously flawed premise, combined with an unwillingness to acknowledge intrinsic power imbalances, has only served to compound the impact of deeply-rooted disparities in the digital world.

“To effect meaningful change, those whose authority and privilege are sustained by inequity must yield power and distribute agency to those who are most impacted by systemic disparities.”

Inequity is not a problem that can be solved from first principles. Those with power cannot define what is or is not equitable. Deciding what’s best for the marginalized, rather than meaningfully empowering them to make these determinations for themselves, is itself a manifestation of inequity.  Racism and other forms of oppression are self-perpetuating and constantly evolve in response to efforts to mitigate them, so strategies for addressing these issues must also evolve and adapt. Focusing exclusively on “quick fixes,” for example, outreach without corresponding investments in cultural and structural change, often do more harm than good.

Injustice cannot be cured by mere consultation, engagement, or representation. To effect meaningful change, those whose authority and privilege are sustained by inequity must yield power and distribute agency to those who are most impacted by systemic disparities.

Closing the Circle

The values of respect, trust, and equity are interconnected and inseparable. Putting them into practice means continually reassessing and re-imagining what a just world might look like. It means acknowledging that the same technologies we create and use with the intent of realizing these ideals, can (and will) be abused to instead sustain and magnify systemic injustice — at an otherwise unimaginable scale.

Values that are expressed but that do not guide our actions are merely performative. Real progress can only come about when we go beyond our good intentions, and take responsibility for impact and outcomes. Ultimately, we are accountable not only to our collaborators and our users, but also to our broader global society.


You can read the DWeb Principles in full, and add your name as a supporter.

Access to Rare Historical Materials Makes an Ocean of Difference for Stanford Professor

The kind of materials that Stanford English professor Margaret Cohen uses in her work, including the history of ocean travel in the period known as the “Age of Sail,” can be difficult to find.

Professor Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel at Stanford University.

Books and illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries needed in her research and teaching are often tucked away in rare book collections. For about five years, Cohen has been turning to the Internet Archive for help. And that access was even more critical during the pandemic when physical libraries were closed.

“It’s really enriched the arguments I can make about cultural history,” Cohen said. “The availability of documents and the very intensive work of tracking these down has become so much easier. The Internet Archive is a very user-friendly tool.”

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has been a resource to Cohen in teaching her English class, Imagining the Ocean. She has discovered manuals from Philip Henry Gosse, who created the first public aquarium, envisioning them as beautiful ocean gardens.  Cohen also shares her screen with students to discuss drawings of the sails, seashore and sea-anemones from the Victorian Age that she accesses through the Archive.

Actinologia britannica, 1860, Plate V.

“Access to the history of science is useful to me. I’m a literature professor, but the imagination spans across different areas,” said Cohen, the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel.

In her own research of oceanic studies, Cohen explores the importance of diversity and reality in marine environments. She tapped into the Internet Archive to fact-check information for A Cultural History of the Sea, (Bloomsbury, April 2021), a six-volume series that she edited chronicling the vital role oceans have played over time.

In researching her upcoming book, The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy to be published by Princeton University Press, Cohen said the Wayback Machine was critical in confirming sources on websites that were no longer live.

Punch, 1879, Vol 76

The Sci-Fi/Horror collection of the Internet Archive has been useful to Cohen in teaching a course on Gothic film—especially since YouTube recently took down many of its films in that genre, she said.

Much of the material Cohen is looking for is in the public domain (such as Punch, a satirical British magazine that dates back to the mid-1800s ) but the documents are fragile because of their age. She has also  appreciated being able to borrow classic books of literary criticism, such as the collection on novel studies that supports her graduate course, Genres of the Novel. 

 “People’s time is limited and having access to this material facilitates scholarship,” Cohen said of the benefits of digitized documents. “I understand why publishers need to make money and I publish myself, but free access to information, particularly for nonprofit use, is a gift.”

Now Accepting SMS Donations

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Internet Archive is able to survive, thrive, and grow thanks to the generosity of our donors. That’s why we’re happy to announce the launch of a new way to donate easily from anywhere: SMS giving! 

Simply text ARCHIVE to 44321 and you’ll receive a secure link that you can use to make a gift. You can select a preset amount or enter your own, and choose whether to set up a monthly donation or make a one-time contribution. Payments can be sent via credit card, Google Pay/Apple Pay, or by connecting your bank account directly.

Of course, you can also still donate by visiting archive.org/donate, using cryptocurrency, making a legacy bequest, and more—here’s a list of all the ways you can give. There are also plenty of other ways you can help out if a financial contribution isn’t possible right now.

Our work is only possible because of the support of our community—and we’re deeply grateful for the generosity of our patrons. Thank you for helping us advance Universal Access to All Knowledge!

Reading Online Books a “Highlight” for Students During Pandemic

Motivating students to stay engaged with online instruction can take some creativity.

Working at a special education learning center in Los Angeles, Luca Messarra found the promise of choosing a book to read for fun after a lesson kept his 9- to 11-year-old kids going. Although access to physical books was limited during the pandemic, he found digital versions in the Internet Archive that made all the difference.

Educator and graduate student Luca Messarra.

Messarra’s individual work with students moved online in March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. He continued to help them learn to read and write by doing drills remotely, using online instruction materials provided by the learning center. It did not have access to digital works of fiction, but Messarra says those were the books that most excited the students.

“That was the most fun because it was an opportunity for them to see the fruits of their labor. They could read a book, finally,” says the 25-year-old who lives in Palo Alto. “It’s far more entertaining to read a book than to do drills over and over again. That was the highlight for a lot of students—to finally be able to read a book of their own choosing.”

Since wrapping up his job at the learning center, Messarra has been enrolled in a graduate English program at Stanford University where he is specializing in digital humanities and postcolonialism.

Looking back on his teaching experience during the pandemic, Messarra says he values the resources from the Internet Archive. “It was incredibly helpful and quite essential to boost the morale of students. They were bored and frustrated because of the pandemic,” he says. “For one of my students, it was his goal to read Harry Potter. Once he was able to read it, he was super excited and eventually bought the book because he was having such a good time.”

Reflecting on 9/11: Twenty Years of Archived TV News – Special Event and Resources

On Thursday, September 9, the Internet Archive will host an online webinar, “Reflecting on 9/11: Twenty Years of Archived TV News” Learn from scholars, journalists, archivists, and data scientists about the importance of archived television for gaining insights into our evolving understanding of history and society.

Participants include the Internet Archive, The American Archive of Public Broadcasting, The Vanderbilt Television News Archive and UCLA Library’s NewsScape TV News Archive. Speakers will include Roger Macdonald (Founder, Internet Archive’s TV News Archive), Jim Duran (Director, Vanderbilt Television News Archives), Karen Cariani (David O. Ives Executive Director, GBH Archives and GBH Project Director, American Archive of Public Broadcasting), Todd Grappone (UCLA Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology), Kalev Leetaru (Founder, Global Database of Events, Language and Tone Project), and Philip Bump (Washington Post national correspondent focused largely on the numbers behind politics)

Please register in advance for the September 9 webinar (11:00 AM – 12:30 PM PDT)

Journalists and scholars: as you prepare 20th anniversary 9/11 reporting and analysis, these unique resources are available:

  • Internet Archive’s 9/11 Television News Archive – a browsable library of TV news from U.S. and international broadcasters from 19 networks, over seven days, from the morning of September 11 through September 17, 2001. Contact: Josh Baran 917-797-1799
  • The Vanderbilt Television News Archive (VTNA) – Founded in 1968, the Archive’s collection includes TV news of attacks on 9/11/2001 coverage during the following weeks broadcast by ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN. Over 270 hours of footage is available for viewing and research. The VTNA records and preserves national television broadcasts of the evening news on ABC, CBS, and NBC with the addition of the primetime news program on CNN in 1995 and the Fox News Channel in 2004. In addition to these nightly recordings, the VTNA also monitors television news networks for breaking live events. Contact: Jim Duran – 615-936-4019  
  • The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by releasing a new 9/11 Special Coverage Collection of 68 public television and radio programs from stations across the country covering the events of the attacks and the aftermath. Among the featured programs are coverage of 9/11 and its anniversaries by The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, the PBS News Hour, and much more. The AAPB is a collaboration between Boston public media producer GBH and the Library of Congress to preserve and make accessible culturally significant public media programs from across the country. Contact: Emily Balk, GBH External Communications Manager – 617-300-5317
  • UCLA Library’s NewsScape TV News Archive contains digitized television news programs collected from cable and broadcast sources in the Los Angeles area from 2005 to the present, as well as a smaller number of news programs from other domestic, international, and online sources collected from 2004 to the present. The archive includes hundreds of thousands of hours of news programs, which are indexed and time-referenced via their closed captions and other associated metadata to enable full-text searching and interactive streaming playback.
Interface for browsing TV news on 19 networks – September 11, 2001 through September 17th – Internet Archive

Background:

  • 500+ archived 9/11-related websites curated by The National September 11 Memorial Museum using the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service
  • Internet Archive’s Open Library offers a list of 2,630 published works about the 9/11 attack
  • A decade ago, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, NYU’s Department of Cinema Studies hosted a conference that featured work by scholars using television news materials to help us understand how TV news presented the events of 9/11 and the international response. “Learning from Recorded Memory”
  • This fall, the Internet Archive celebrates its 25th anniversary.
  • The Internet Archive’s TV News Archive repurposes closed captioning as a search index for nearly three million hours of U.S. local and national TV news (2,239,000+ individual shows) from mid-2009 to the present. The public interest library is dedicated to facilitating journalists, scholars, and the public to compare, contrast, cite, and borrow specific portions of the collection. Advanced quantitive analysis opportunities and data visualizations are available via the collaborating GDELT Project’s Television Explorer and AI Television Explorer.
  • Roger Macdonald, founder of the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive, is available for background interviews and to help journalists access the archive.

Internet Archive 9/11 Event and Resources Media Contact:  pressinfo@archive.org

Supreme Court of Canada Reaffirms Public Access as a “Primary Goal of Copyright”

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided the much-anticipated York University v. Access Copyright case, reaffirming—in an unanimous opinion—that “public access to and dissemination of artistic and intellectual works” are “a primary goal of copyright.” We join our friends at the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, CIPPIC, and all throughout Canada in applauding this important decision.

The Access Copyright case was centered around the question whether educational institutions in Canada were required to pay certain tariffs to Access Copyright. Access Copyright had argued that its tariffs were mandatory for educational institutions, and recently attempted to raise them from $3.38 to $45 per student, per year, along with a variety of other changes. In response, York University argued that its use was fair dealing and, as a result, that it was not required to pay a tariff or any other fee for such use. After a lengthy court battle, the Supreme Court of Canada has now ruled in favor of York, holding that the tariffs are not mandatory and emphasizing the importance of “protect[ing] users from the potentially unfair exertion of . . . market power” by big copyright interests like Access Copyright.

While the Court did not address the specifics of York’s own fair dealing, it was sure to emphasize “the nature of fair dealing as a user’s right” in Canada. As the Court explained:

Copyright law has public interest goals. . . . [T]he public benefits of our system of copyright are much more than “a fortunate by-product of private entitlement” [citation omitted].  Instead, increasing public access to and dissemination of artistic and intellectual works, which enrich society and often provide users with the tools and inspiration to generate works of their own, is a primary goal of copyright. “Excessive control by holders of copyrights and other forms of intellectual property may unduly limit the ability of the public domain to incorporate and embellish creative innovation in the long-term interests of society as a whole” (Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc., [2002] 2 S.C.R. 336, at para. 32, per Binnie J.).

York University v Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), 2021 SCC 32

Copyright can only serve its true purpose when due attention is given to user’s rights and the public interest. But all too often, in courts around the world, the public interest is not fairly addressed. The Access Copyright decision helps ensure that Canadian courts do not make this mistake; as Professor Michael Geist has noted, it “removes any doubt that the Supreme Court remains strongly supportive of user’s rights in copyright.”

Internet Archive Can Provide a New Home for your Beloved Books & Media: Details on Making a Physical Donation

When Marygrove College closed, they donated the entire library to the Internet Archive for preservation & digitization.

During the pandemic, perhaps you have been cleaning out some bookshelves in your house. Or maybe you are a librarian, planning to be back in your building for the first time in more than a year and restarting collection management activities.

If you are wondering what to do with your excess materials, the Internet Archive can help. The nonprofit library accepts donation books, records (CDs, LPs, 45rpm, 78rpm, cylinders), films, and microforms that it does not already have in its collection. The Archive preserves one copy of everything it receives and tries to find good homes for duplicates. Then, as funding allows, the Archive digitizes the materials and helps them reach a wider audience online.

“No donation is too far away or small to be considered by the Internet Archive.”

Liz Rosenberg, donations manager, Internet Archive

At a recent webinar, staff from the Archive explained the process for donating and  encouraged the public’s help as it works to provide universal access to everything ever published.

“No donation is too far away or small to be considered by the Internet Archive,” said Liz Rosenberg, donations manager. She has helped coordinate donations of entire libraries, including collections from Marygrove College in Detroit and Bay State College’s Boston Campus.

Donation Process

To find out more about what’s involved with physical donations, Rosenberg suggests going to the Help page for details about shipping instructions or dropping off donations smaller than about 20 boxes. All others are asked to complete a physical item donation form to provide all the information to make a larger donation happen, including where the items are located, an accurate count, and other special considerations for the offer.

Part of the donation of 18,000 records from a collector in Washington D.C.

Once submitted, staff begin the planning process to determine if the collection is in a format that can be accepted, if there are duplicates, and the project timeline. Arrangements then can be made for packing and shipping. In the case of larger collections, the Archive typically is able to provide assistance with transportation costs.

Sometimes donors pack their own items and then the Archive pays for the shipping. That was the case for a recent donation of 18,000 records from a music enthusiast in Washington D.C. The donor was looking for a “forever home” for his beloved vinyl and the Archive was happy to schedule a pickup and preserve the rare collection, Rosenberg said.

Why Donate?

For donations of 50 or more items, the Archive can create a collection to both honor the donor and make their donation accessible all in one place. “The ability to access all of their media in one place really reassures our donors that they will still have access to their items even once they’re no longer in their physical possession,” said Rosenberg. Some stories behind major contributions are covered by the Archive in its blog.

Better World Books, a socially responsible bookstore that has a longstanding relationship with the Internet Archive, regularly donates books for preservation and digitization. It receives many of its books from library partners around the world. The Archive accepts many materials that BWB will not.

Internet Archive team members having fun with the task of packing & shipping an entire library collection from Bay State College.

“We love more than anything to get large collections—entire intellectual units, such as a reference collection that is curated,” said Chris Freeland, a librarian who works at the Archive. “It helps us round out our collection, and helps our patrons. If someone has a collection that no longer fits their collection development priorities, think of Better World Book or the Internet Archive for those materials.”

The Archive is open to over-sized items, such as maps, and books that do not have to have an ISBN number. What about loose periodicals? The Archive does not want a few scattered issues but does have interest in long runs of a magazine.

Once digitized, patrons with print disabilities can access the materials and some are selected to be accessible via Controlled Digital Lending and for machine learning research. Together, we can achieve long term preservation and access to our collective cultural legacy.

One Writer on Libraries

Guest post by author Fran Moreland Johns.

Whenever I’ve had a book published I have celebrated every sale. But the biggest cause for celebration – the sale that always made me most proud – was when a library acquired a copy or two. Individuals may purchase a book, shelve it or pass it along to a friend, and thereafter it disappears. Libraries are forever.

Fran Moreland Johns

This is the belief that underscores my enthusiasm for the Internet Archive. While the Atlanta Public Library may one day cull my book to make room for someone else’s, those words I labored over and so treasure, whether anyone else ever treasures them or not, are safe with the Internet Archive. And may it thrive and prosper.

Johns writing cutlines under the rapt gaze of Richmond Times-Dispatch photographers. Disclaimer: Johns quit smoking in 1964.

This is all a very long way from my literary beginnings on a Royal portable typewriter. I wrote for newspapers and magazines – the Richmond Times-Dispatch, USA Today, National Real Estate Investor to cite just a few of the wildly different multiple dozens – from the early 1950s into the technologically bewildering 2020s. Eventually I added an MFA in short fiction to my BA in Art and veered into short stories, with a few tiny publication successes, including Dying unafraid (1999) and Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade (2013). When the internet came along, I tiptoed in via a blog for news aggregate site True/Slant.com which eventually morphed into today’s franjohns.net. With a little luck my short story collection, Marshallville Stories, will be published in 2022; the Internet Archive will get one of the first copies.

I’ve been following the conflict between U.S. publishers and the Internet Archive with some degree of horror and dismay. Publishers, I realize, are in business to make money and thereby stay in business. Do they not want people, as many people as possible, to read the books they publish? After the first flurry of sales (perhaps excluding the blockbuster books that will make big bucks for authors and publishers alike, may they also thrive and prosper) does it not follow that publishers would want their books to enjoy long and successful lives? That, at least, is the hope I believe most authors harbor. I can’t claim to speak for other authors, but this I know is personally true: I write for the joy of writing, and in the hope of being read. I’d be surprised if there were many writers out there who don’t feel the same.

So let’s hear it for libraries. And for the one that’s unique among all others, the Internet Archive.

***

Fran Moreland Johns has been writing (for newspapers, magazines, online sites) since the 1950s, and blogging since she was introduced to the idea via a paid blog for news aggregate site True/Slant in 2009. Her roots are in small town Virginia and her heart is in hometown San Francisco. She currently blogs on Medium.com and www.franjohns.net. You can read Dying unafraid (1999) online through the Internet Archive’s lending library.

Reflections as the Internet Archive turns 25

Photo by Rory Mitchell, The Mercantile, 2020 – CC by 4.0
(L-R) Brewster Kahle, Tamiko Thiel, Carl Feynman at Thinking Machines, May 1985. Photo courtesy of Tamiko Thiel.

A Library of Everything

As a young man, I wanted to help make a new medium that would be a step forward from Gutenberg’s invention hundreds of years before. 

By building a Library of Everything in the digital age, I thought the opportunity was not just to make it available to everybody in the world, but to make it better–smarter than paper. By using computers, we could make the Library not just searchable, but organizable; make it so that you could navigate your way through millions, and maybe eventually billions of web pages.

The first step was to make computers that worked for large collections of rich media. The next was to create a network that could tap into computers all over the world: the Arpanet that became the Internet. Next came augmented intelligence, which came to be called search engines. I then helped build WAIS–Wide Area Information Server–that helped publishers get online to anchor this new and open system, which came to be enveloped by the World Wide Web.  

By 1996, it was time to start building the library.

This library would have all the published works of humankind. This library would be available not only to those who could pay the $1 per minute that LexusNexus charged, or only at the most elite universities. This would be a library available to anybody, anywhere in the world. Could we take the role of a library a step further, so that everyone’s writings could be included–not only those with a New York book contract? Could we build a multimedia archive that contains not only writings, but also songs, recipes, games, and videos? Could we make it possible for anyone to learn about their grandmother in a hundred years’ time?

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Business Section, May 7, 1988. Photo by Jerry Telfer.

Not about an Exit or an IPO

From the beginning, the Internet Archive had to be a nonprofit because it contains everybody else’s things. Its motives had to be transparent. It had to last a long time.

In Silicon Valley, the goal is to find a profitable exit, either through acquisition or IPO, and go off to do your next thing. That was never my goal. The goal of the Internet Archive is to create a permanent memory for the Web that can be leveraged to make a new Global Mind. To find patterns in the data over time that would provide us with new insights, well beyond what you could do with a search engine.  To be not only a historical reference but a living part of the pulse of the Internet.

John Perry Barlow, lyricist for the Grateful Dead & founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, accepting the Internet Archive Hero Award, October 21, 2015. Photograph by Brad Shirakawa – CC by 4.0

Looking Way Back

My favorite things from the early era of the Web were the dreamers. 

In the early Web, we saw people trying to make a more democratic system work. People tried to make publishing more inclusive.

We also saw the other parts of humanity: the pornographers, the scammers, the spammers, and the trolls. They, too, saw the opportunity to realize their dreams in this new world. At the end of the day, the Internet and the World Wide Web–it’s just us. It’s just a history of humankind. And it has been an experiment in sharing and openness.

The World Wide Web at its best is a mechanism for people to share what they know, almost always for free, and to find one’s community no matter where you are in the world. 

Brewster Kahle speaking at the 2019 Charleston Library Conference. Photo by Corey SeemanCC by 4.0

Looking Way Forward

Over the next 25 years, we have a very different challenge. It’s solving some of the big problems with the Internet that we’re seeing now. Will this be our medium or will it be theirs? Will it be for a small controlling set of organizations or will it be a common good, a public resource? 

So many of us trust the Web to find recipes, how to repair your lawnmower, where to buy new shoes, who to date. Trust is perhaps the most valuable asset we have, and squandering that trust will be a global disaster. 

We may not have achieved Universal Access to All Knowledge yet, but we still can.

In another 25 years, we can have writings from not a hundred million people, but from a billion people, preserved forever. We can have compensation systems that aren’t driven by advertising models that enrich only a few. 

We can have a world with many winners, with people participating, finding communities of like-minded people they can learn from all over the world.  We can create an Internet where we feel in control. 

I believe we can build this future together. You have already helped the Internet Archive build this future. Over the last 25 years, we’ve amassed billions of pages, 70 petabytes of data to offer to the next generation. Let’s offer it to them in new and exciting ways. Let’s be the builders and dreamers of the next twenty-five years.

See a timeline of Key Moments in Access to Knowledge, videos & an invitation to our 25th Anniversary Virtual Celebration at anniversary.archive.org.