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Archive 2020: Archiving Web Dynamics


Google Trends en de dynamiek van het web

— ​Archives have the important task to save cultural heritage from disappearing into the past. The field of Web archiving is faced with documents that are characterized by their dynamic nature, leading to difficulties in the archiving process.

Archiving Web dynamics
Web archives are faced with an unstable object of preservation. This instability is mostly discussed in terms of 'ephemerality' of Web objects. Web objects that exist in the present may not be there in months, days, minutes even. One approach to deal with the medium's ephemerality is the editorial approach to Web archiving. It is based on capturing a predefined selection of URLs over time. The medium-specific approach proposed here focuses on the prominence of Websites in their digital environment, including relations between Websites and their place in a larger entity. Think for example of the rise and fall of sources in the top 20 of search engine result listings for a particular query (, the absence or presence of hyperlink networks among actors ( or the Web effects of Internet censorship (, The aim of the discussion is to explore ways to start archiving the dynamics of the Web by focusing on digital objects that create relations between and contexts of the 'born digital' records. Including the hyperlink, search engine returns and tags. These collection methods could be informed by looking at how devices that are common on the Web deal with these objects, such as search engines, platforms and recommender systems.

How and why do current Web archives look as they do? This question is discussed to start thinking about a contribution to Web archiving. Web archives are shaped by the period and spirit from which they emerge. When archives think of time, they usually refer to the creation date of documents. Here, the creation date of the Web archives is discussed. Two Web archiving projects are looked at in more detail.

The first project, which strives to save the entire Web, the Internet Archive, is compared to the Web archive of the Royal Library of the Netherlands (the KB) that currently comprises 400 Websites. The Internet Archive started archiving in the nineties, which was dominated by the notion of cyberspace. Both the scope of the collection (e.g. the entire Web) as well as the navigating the archive through the Wayback Machine (e.g. URL search and subsequently browsing from page to page) are exemplary of cyber spatial thinking. At the beginning of this century, the notion of cyberspace was confronted with the 'national turn,' where the Web manifests itself nationally. Think for example of the country versions of Google (e.g., national social networking services (e.g. Hyves) and enforcement of copyright law on national level (e.g. "this video is not available in your country"). Also in Web archiving a number of projects have emerged which archive with a national focus. The KB is an example of this 'national turn' in the Web archiving.

The two archiving projects also differ in their approach to the collection object. The Internet Archive delegates the selection of Websites to be included in the archive to users, while the KB approaches collection objects from an editorial perspective. The former uses traffic data to identify sources for collection (provided by, the latter has a team of experts selecting relevant Websites in their field of expertise. The general library policy and research programs shape the collection policy and research focus of the Web archive.
The questions explored here are, what would the national Web archive look like when the focus is on capturing hyperlinks, search engine results, and other digital objects? What aspects besides the digital document are relevant to save and why? Can we learn from how born digital devices (e.g. search engines, platforms and recommendation systems) make use of the objects, and if so, how can such uses be repurposed for Web archiving?

Biography Esther Weltevrede
Esther Weltevrede is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the New Media department at the University of Amsterdam. She is researcher at the Research and PhD Program Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), which aims to develop novel methods and tools for studying the Web. Since 2007 she is a member of, a foundation dedicated to development of political tools on the Web.
Her PhD research is about national Webs. As part of the Digital Methods Initiative, this particular study aims to develop methods and tools with a locative-technical focus. The aim of this study is two-folded. Firstly, to locate and demarcate national Web spaces utilizing various locative-technical indicators of the Web. Secondly, to diagnose the condition of a country from a Web perspective by analyzing social communication within the demarcated space.

Archiving Web Dynamics is a case study that is presented at Archive 2020.


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