ASU's Shawn Walker receives XSEDE startup grant for new archive study

Shawn Walker, an assistant professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has received a startup grant allocation from XSEDE. His project will be in collaboration with a PhD student at the University of Maryland and a PhD student at the University of Southampton in the U.K. with the Internet Archive providing access to the data for the pilot study. 

As both a publishing and archiving platform, the web promises new opportunities for participatory archives that can provide a more democratic, inclusive and diverse historical record. For example, the Internet Archive’s Save Page Now (SPN) function allows anyone with a web browser and an internet connection to add a particular web resource to a public archive of over 300 billion web pages. SPN was recently estimated to be adding close to 100 URLs per second.

While we have seen increased use of web archives by journalists and scholars, we currently understand very little about the nature of the participatory archiving process itself. What communities of users are using archive on demand services? How are the archival records created in this way circulating on the web? To what extent is automation a factor in archival production, and what purposes does it serve?

This study will attempt to answer these questions using a mixed-methods approach of analyzing Save Page Now web archival data in conjunction with signals from social media, as well as in-person interviews with individuals who use archive-on-demand services. In addition the researchers will pay particular attention to how these topics can be studied while ensuring the privacy of the individuals involved with anonymized transactions. They expect that the results of this research will allow them to present the Internet Archive with a characterization of how Save Page Now is being used that will be helpful in understanding and evolving the service and that furthers the archive’s mission to provide universal access to all knowledge.

They plan to share their findings with the web science research community at conferences, in research journals, and also in a digestible open access format for the general web.