Panel: Web archiving of the COVID crisis in Europe. Infrastructures, agencies, challenges and tensions

Friday 2 July 2021, 10.00-12.00 am

This panel, which is organized by the WARCnet network, aims to analyze web archiving and web archives during an unexpected and disruptive event: the COVID-19 crisis. Combining analysis by web archivists and scholars, it addresses several issues currently at stake, may it be with regards to the historization and heritagization of recent born-digital traces or the value, strengths and limits of these numerous web archives and collections for scholars.

By simultaneously allowing discovery of web archiving practices and the uses of web archives by researchers, this panel strongly entwines questions related to web archiving infrastructures and their agencies in Europe, as well as challenges and tensions that are in the balance when studying these digital traces, building corpora, facing interoperability issues, developing digital skills, conducting distant and close reading, etc.

After a general presentation of the challenges at stake by Jane Winters (SAS, University of London, UK), the first part of the panel focuses on web archives collections that were created during the COVID-19 crisis by many institutions through Europe and the analysis of the large oral history campaign we conducted in European countries (Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, etc.2). Nicola Bingham (The British Library, UK) will offer overviews of the collections that were gathered respectively by the UK Web Archive and the IIPC (International Internet Preservation Consortium), while Claude Mussou (Ina THEQUE, France) will explain the strategy of the Institut national de l’audiovisuel (France) which was more specifically oriented towards Twitter’s archiving. Friedel Geeraert (The State Archives of Belgium and the Royal Library of Belgium) will provide a comparative overview of the strategies of web archiving institutions in Europe, underlining the frame, scope, process, values and agencies at stake. Although web archiving initiatives were mainly conducted within libraries, Karin de Wild (Leiden University, The Netherlands) and Caroline Nyvang (Royal Danish Library, Denmark) will also present the case of GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and the way they may have taken part in this preservation of born-digital heritage.

The second part of this panel then focuses on the methodologies and research approaches at stake when scholars face such rich but also heterogeneous collections : while Federico Nanni (The Alan Turing Institute, UK) and Sophie Gebeil (Aix-Marseille University, France) will underline these methodological challenges, may it be in terms of transnational corpora, interoperability, etc., Valérie Schafer (C2DH, University of Luxembourg) will provide feedback on a very concrete experiment that the working group conducted in January 2021 through a Datathon based on metadata and derived data provided by several web archiving organizations. This distant reading approach will be complemented by a more qualitative approach and by the presentation of several research topics. Niels Brügger (Aarhus University, Denmark) will discuss two key topics: the notion of digital media events and pandemics on the Web before the COVID crisis. Valérie Schafer will also mention the gendered approach of the COVID crisis that the working group is currently conducting, while Henrik Smith-Sivertsen (The Royal Library, Denmark) will help the audience to discover the creativity that arose, especially with regards to the songs that were born in relation to the COVID crisis.

Chaired by Susan Aasman (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), this panel is followed by a discussion with the audience in order to deepen the topics that are at the core of the panel, may it be the social and technical construction of web archives, the issues of inclusiveness or live archives, the European landscape of web archiving, or the current and future tools and methodologies to approach such data

This session is part of the Tensions of Europe Digital Festival. See programme. Registrations will open mid-may.