Library as Laboratory Recap: Applications of Web Archive Research with the Archive Unleashed Cohort Program

From projects that compare public health misinformation to feminist media tactics, the Internet Archive is providing researchers with vital data to assist them with archival web collection analysis.

In the second of a series of webinars highlighting how the Internet Archive supports digital humanities research, five scholars shared their experience with the Archives Unleashed Project on March 16. 

Archives Unleashed was established in 2017 with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The team developed open-source, user-friendly Archives Research Compute Hub (ARCH) tools to allow researchers to conduct scalable analyses, as well as resources and tutorials. An effort to build and engage a community of users led to a partnership with the Internet Archive. 

A cohort program was launched in 2020 to provide researchers with mentoring and technical expertise to conduct analyses of archival web material on a variety of topics. The webinar speakers provided an overview of their innovative projects: 

  • WATCH: Crisis communication during the COVID-19 pandemic was the focus of an investigation by Tim Ribaric and researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. Using fully extracted texts from websites of municipal governments, community organizations and others, the team compared how well information was conveyed to the public. The analysis assessed four facets of communication: resilience, education, trust and engagement. The data set was used to teach senior communication students at the university about digital scholarship, Ribaric said, and the team is now finalizing a manuscript with the results of the analysis.
  • WATCH: Shana MacDonald from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada applied archival web data to do a comparative analysis of feminist media tactics over time. The project mapped the presence of feminist key concepts and terms to better understand who is using them and why. The researchers worked with the Archives Unleashed team to capture information from relevant websites, write code and analyze the data. They found the top three terms used were “media, culture and community,” MacDonald said, providing an interesting snapshot into trends with language and feminism.
  • WATCH: At the University of Siegen, a public research university in Germany, researchers examined the online commenting system on new websites from 1996 to 2021.  Online media outlets started to remove commenting systems in about 2015 and the project was focused on this time of disruption. With the rise of Web 2.0 and social media, commenting is becoming increasingly toxic and taking away from the main text, said the university’s Robert Jansma. Technology providers have begun to offer ways to stem the tide of these unwanted comments and, in general, the team discovered comments are not very well preserved.
  • WATCH: Web archives of the COVID-19 crisis through the IIPC Novel Coronavirus dataset was analyzed by a team at the University of Luxembourg led by Valérie Schafer. As a shared, unforeseen, global event, the researchers found vast institutional differences in web archiving. Looking at tracking systems from the U.S. Library of Congress, European libraries and others, the team did not see much overlap in national collections and are in the midst of finalizing the project’s results.
  • WATCH: Researchers at Arizona State University worked with ARCH tools to compare health misinformation circulating during the HIV/AIDS crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.  ASU’s Shawn Walker did a text analysis to link patterns and examine how gaps in understanding of health crises can fuel misinformation. In both cases, the community was trying to make sense of information in an uncertain environment. However, the government conspiracy theories rampant in the COVID-19 pandemic were not part of the dialogue during the HIV/AIDS crisis, Walker said.

Archives Unleashed is accepting applications for its 2022-23 cohort research teams. For more information, view the application & instructions:

Up next in the Library as Laboratory series:

The next webinar in the series, Hundreds of Books, Thousands of Stories: A Guide to the Internet Archive’s African Folktales will be held March 30. Register now

One thought on “Library as Laboratory Recap: Applications of Web Archive Research with the Archive Unleashed Cohort Program

  1. Ketan Maitra

    I am highly obliged to have the opportunity to be in touch with you. I am an Indian engaged in some quest of ancient thoughts and ideas of both Indian and other parts of the world. Its my passion. I am trying to satisfy primarily myself and then if possible to publish it in a book form. Till then,

    Yours sincerely,

    Ketan Maitra
    +91 9830020987

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