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Averting the Digital Dark Age

How Archivists, Librarians, and Technologists Built the Web a Memory

Ian Milligan

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How the internet's memory infrastructure developed—averting a "digital dark age"—and introduced a golden age of historical memory.

In early 1996, the web was ephemeral. But by 2001, the internet was forever. How did websites transform from having a brief life to becoming long-lasting? Drawing on archival material in the Internet Archive and exclusive interviews, Ian Milligan's Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how western society evolved from fearing a digital dark age to building the robust digital memory we rely on today.

By the mid-1990s, the specter of a "digital dark age" haunted...

How the internet's memory infrastructure developed—averting a "digital dark age"—and introduced a golden age of historical memory.

In early 1996, the web was ephemeral. But by 2001, the internet was forever. How did websites transform from having a brief life to becoming long-lasting? Drawing on archival material in the Internet Archive and exclusive interviews, Ian Milligan's Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how western society evolved from fearing a digital dark age to building the robust digital memory we rely on today.

By the mid-1990s, the specter of a "digital dark age" haunted libraries, portending a bleak future with no historical record that threatened cyber obsolescence, deletion, and apathy. People around the world worked to solve this impending problem. In San Francisco, technology entrepreneur Brewster Kahle launched his scrappy nonprofit, Internet Archive, filling tape drives with internet content. Elsewhere, in Washington, Canberra, Ottawa, and Stockholm, librarians developed innovative new programs to safeguard digital heritage.

Cataloging worries among librarians, technologists, futurists, and writers from WWII onward, through early practitioners, to an extended case study of how September 11 prompted institutions to preserve thousands of digital artifacts related to the attacks, Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how the web gained a long-lasting memory. By understanding this history, we can equip our society to better grapple with future internet shifts.

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Reviews

In a remarkably brief span of time, a seemingly fragile new medium—the web—became not only preservable, but deemed worthy of preservation. Ian Milligan compellingly documents the swift actions of key organizations and individuals who ensured that our modern digital record would not be lost. Averting the Digital Dark Age is thus a human story as much as a technological one.

Historical exploration of nearly any subject in the late 20th and early 21st century will require engaging with web archives. Milligan has written an invaluable guide to the emergence of the web and the collaborations between industry, the Internet Archive, and National Libraries that now serve as critical preservation infrastructure.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421450131
Illustration Description
3 b&w photos, 1 b&w illus
Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
1. Why the Web Could Be Saved: From Machine-Readable Records to Digital Preservation
2. From Dark Age to Golden Age? The Digital Preservation Moment
3. Building the Universal

Acknowledgements
Introduction
1. Why the Web Could Be Saved: From Machine-Readable Records to Digital Preservation
2. From Dark Age to Golden Age? The Digital Preservation Moment
3. Building the Universal Library: The Internet Archive
4. From Selective to Comprehensive: National Libraries and Early Web Preservation
5. Archiving Disaster: The Case of 11 September 2001
Conclusion: Constantly Averting the Digital Dark Age
Bibliography
Notes

Author Bio
Ian Milligan
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Ian Milligan

Ian Milligan (ONTARIO, CANADA) is a professor of history at the University of Waterloo, where he also serves as an associate vice president in the Office of Research. Milligan is the author of The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age and History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web Is Transforming Historical Research.