Big data experiments with the archived Web: Methodological reflections on studying the development of a nation's Web

  • Niels Brügger Aarhus University, School of Communication and Culture, Centre for Internet Studies, and NetLab
  • Janne Nielsen
  • Ditte Laursen
Keywords: Web history, the World Wide Web, big data, historiography, geography

Abstract

This article outlines how the 'digital geography' of a nation can be studied, that is the online presence of one nation. The entire Danish Web domain and its development from 2006 to 2015 is used as a case, based on the holdings in the Danish national Web archive. The following research questions guide the investigation: What has the Danish Web domain looked like in the past, and how has it developed in the period 2006-2015? Methodologically, we investigate to what extent one can delimit 'a nation' on the Web, and what characterizes the archived Web as a historical source for academic studies, as well as the general characteristics of our specific data source. Analytically, the article introduces a design for how this type of big data analyses of an entire national Web domain can be performed. Our findings show some of the ways in which a nation's digital landscape can be mapped, ie. on size, content types and hyperlinks. On a broader canvas, this study demonstrates that with hard- and software as well as human competencies from different disciplines it is possible to perform large-scale historical studies of one of the biggest media sources of today, the World Wide Web.
Published
2020-02-10
How to Cite
Brügger, N., Nielsen, J., & Laursen, D. (2020). Big data experiments with the archived Web: Methodological reflections on studying the development of a nation’s Web. First Monday, 25(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i3.10384