Link Rot: Overruled! The Variable Geometries of Preserving the Web

February 24th, 2015


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By Jefferson Bailey

Back in October, Georgetown University Law Library hosted a one-day symposium, “404/File Not Found:
Link Rot, Legal Citation and Projects to Preserve Precedent,” that featured an excellent, diverse line-up of speakers and attendees discussing issues in online citation longevity, digital preservation, and web archiving. They were kind enough also to extend an invite to the Archive-It team, and I was lucky enough to attend and represent both Archive-It and Internet Archive. It was exciting to see issue of web archiving and the preservation of digital content getting attention from professional communities and disciplines for whom this issue may not have been “on their radar” in the past. It also served as a reminder of how central web-based content is to many facets of society and how its long-term preservation impacts different constituencies and communities.

I spoke as part of one of the “Strategies” sessions along with Herbert Van de Sompel, who many will know from his work on the Memento project. Presuming that others would cover the legal and technical aspects of link rot, I aimed to provide an archival or preservation perspective and place the activity of digital preservation and ongoing access into a larger social and cultural context in which technological challenges or solutions are one of many different and often competing influences on the archival endeavor (as we call it). Preservation strategies, thus, operate in an environment in which challenges and solutions are not exclusively technical, practical, nor conceptual but interlinked and, often, historically contingent. If that point is lost in all the “uhs” and “ums” capture in this recorded talk (and thank god there’s no video!), well then at least the presentation also features cute pictures of dogs via HTTP Status Dogs and what turned out to be the symposium’s sole Lionel Hutz joke.

The embedded video below can also be found on the symposium’s website and recordings of all the other talk’s and panels can be found on the event’s media page. Thanks again to Georgetown University Law Library for inviting us and for recording the proceedings and sorry it took us (or more specifically, me) so long to post it here on the blog!