Digital Conversations@BL

Web Archives: truth, lies and politics in the 21st century


Wednesday 14 June, 
18:30 – 20:30

  British Library Knowledge Centre (Auditorium/Theatre)


The web and social media play a key role in the circulation of news in the 21st century. But increasingly it is becoming difficult to separate fact from fiction and untruth, or even to agree on what constitutes fact. These problems are heightened by the speed with which information can be shared, modified or deleted, the personalisation (both explicit and hidden) that determines which news we see online, and the difficulties of establishing authorship and provenance. This panel will discuss the role of web and social media archives in helping us, as digital citizens, to navigate through this complex and changing information landscape.


Jane Winters 

Chair of Digital Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Valérie Schafer

Historian at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Institute for Communication Sciences, CNRS)

Jefferson Bailey

Director of Web Archiving at the Internet Archive

Andrew Jackson

Web Archiving Technical Lead at the British Library
 Can a Web Archive Lie?

Chair: Eliane Glaser

Author of Get Real: How to see through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life 

Speaker biographies

Valérie Schafer is a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Institute for Communication Sciences). She specializes in history of computing and telecommunications. Her current research deals with the Internet and Web history and she leads the Web90 project funded by the French National Research Agency and dedicated to the French Heritage, Memories and History of the Web in the 90s. She led the ASAP project (From #jesuischarlie to #offenturen: the born digital heritage and its archiving during the Paris Attacks) in 2016.

Eliane Glaser is a writer, a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, an associate research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, and a BBC radio producer. Her book Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life (Fourth Estate, 2013) is about how political and financial elites legitimise themselves by co-opting progressive ideals, and about the power dynamics that persist behind modern smokescreens of ‘interactivity’, ‘participation’, ‘engagement’ and ‘democratisation’. Eliane is currently working on two projects – one on anti-politics; the other a defence of experts and ‘good’ elites. She writes about politics, culture, media and new technology for the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Independent, among other publications.

Jefferson Bailey is Director of Web Archiving at Internet Archive. Jefferson joined Internet Archive in Summer 2014 and manages Internet Archive’s web archiving services including Archive-It, used by over 500 institutions to preserve the web. He also oversees contract and domain-scale web archiving services for national libraries and archives around the world and works closely with partner institutions on collaborative technology development, data preservation, research services, educational partnerships, and other programs. He is PI on multiple grants focused on systems interoperability, data-driven research use of web archives, and community news preservation. Prior to Internet Archive, he worked on strategic initiatives, digital collections, and digital preservation at institutions such as Metropolitan New York Library Council, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Public Library, and Frick Art Reference Library and has worked in the archives at NARA, NASA, and Atlantic Records. He is currently Vice Chair of the International Internet Preservation Consortium.

Jane Winters is professor of digital humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She has led or co-directed a range of digital projects, including most recently Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities; Digging into Linked Parliamentary Metadata; Traces through Time: Prosopography in Practice across Big Data; the Thesaurus of British and Irish History as SKOS; and Born Digital Big Data and Approaches for History and the Humanities. She is a fellow and councillor of the Royal Historical Society.

Andy Jackson is the technical lead for the UK Web Archive, based at the British Library. His background is in computational physics and large-scale parallel processing, and his current role allows him to apply these skills in order to help researchers and academics make use of our large collections of archived content. This involves applying data-mining techniques to web archives in order to improve our ability to understand, exploit and preserve digital resources.


18:00 Drinks and nibbles

18:30 Welcome by Ian Cooke, Head of Contemporary British Publications

18:35 Panel discussion chaired by Eliane Glaser

19:50 Discussion with the audience

20:30 Reception

21:30 Departure