In C²DH Innovating & sharing history podcast, historian Valerie Schafer, head of the “Contemporary history of Europe” research area and Niels Brügger, Professor in Media Studies and head of the Centre for Internet Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark, spoke about the challenges of digging into the web archives and of studying online virality.
WARCnet, AWAC2 and BUZZ-F: 3 collaborative, international projects coming to an end
The WARCnet project (2020-23), funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark | Humanities and led by Niels Brügger (Aarhus University), Jane Winters (University of London) and Valérie Schafer (C2DH) was launched at the very beginning of 2020. A few weeks later the COVID sanitary crisis started. The working group 2, led by Valérie Schafer and composed of European scholars and web archivists, was related to the study of events through web archives and decided to focus on the web archives of this global crisis. This study was reinforced thanks to a second project that took benefit of the unique collection of Web archives related to the COVID-crisis that the IIPC (International Internet Preservation Consortium) created with the support of more than 30 members/libraries around the world. A group of 6 scholars (from Luxembourg, Denmark, France and The Netherlands) applied for the annual call for cohorts of the Archives Unleashed team, based in Canada, and conducted with them a distant reading of this huge multilingual dataset. Supported by the Andrew Mellow foundation, the Archives Unleashed is also partnering with Internet Archive. The AWAC2 team met at C2DH in March 2022 for a 2-days datathon and a collective brainstorming organised by Frédéric Clavert and Valérie Schafer, while results were presented at the IIPC annual conference in May 2022, at DH Benelux (June 2022), or at the final WARCnet conference (October 2022). Several publications are currently under progress and a collective book is to be published by the WARCnet team, with a chapter focusing more specifically on a topic the AWAC2 team explored: Women, gender and COVID.
Finally the BUZZ-F project, launched in September 2021 in partnership with the new BnF DataLab, led to research stays at BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) by Fred Pailler, Valérie Schafer and Frédéric Clavert, a close collaboration with web archivists and a more specific work on the Harlem Shake thanks to Fred Pailler (C2DH), Alexandre Faye (BnF) and Antoine Silvestre de Sacy (Huma-Num). This viral phenomenon that mostly occurred in 2013 allowed for a close and distant reading in the French web archives, experiences of visualisations and many experiments related to the retrievability of viral phenomena within web archives. This annual project that strongly benefited from the expertise of BnF engineers enriched the HIVI project too.
The HIVI project in its second year
Funded by the FNR, the HIVI project has entered its second year. It has enabled the development of case studies dedicated to virality, for example on the Harlem Shake phenomenon, which was internationally approached by a scalable reading. this method and study are at the heart of a chapter for the collective book Zoomland. Exploring scale in Digital History and Humanities edited by our colleagues Andreas Fickers and Florentina Armaselu. In addition to the progress of Carmen Noguera's PhD dissertation, devoted to the computerization and digitalisation of Luxembourg, the VIRAL seminar which started its second season, 2 presentations at the international ECREA conference in the fall, and the publication of a methodological article "Never gonna give you up. Historiciser la virility en ligne" in the Revue d'histoire culturelle, the HIVI team continued its analyses of the digital traces of viral phenomena.