Observing web archives: The case for an ethnographic study of web archiving

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper makes the case for studying the work of web archivists, in an effort to explore the ways in which practitioners shape the preservation and maintenance of the archived Web in its various forms. An ethnographic approach is taken through the use of observation, interviews and documentary sources over the course of several weeks in collaboration with web archivists, engineers and managers at the Internet Archive - a private, non-profit digital library that has been archiving the Web since 1996. The concept of web archival labour is proposed to encompass and highlight the ways in which web archivists (as both networked human and non-human agents) shape and maintain the preserved Web through work that is often embedded in and obscured by the complex technical arrangements of collection and access. As a result, this engagement positions web archives as places of knowledge and cultural production in their own right, revealing new insights into the performative nature of web archiving that have implications for how these data are used and understood.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationProceedings of WebSci’17, Troy, NY, USA., June 25–28, 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

Bibliographical note

This paper is based on data collected and fieldwork undertaken by the first author as part of their PhD research.

Structured keywords

  • Digital Societies


  • web archiving, knowledge production, STS, materiality, information labour

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