Finding Traces in YouTube’s Living Archive: Exploring Informal Archival Practices

Susan Aasman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    This article addresses the challenges that media historians face when they aim to reconstruct the early history of YouTube. Since the platform is constantly adapting its policies, there is a great level of uncertainty as to what is still there or what is no longer traceable. Therefore, addressing the question if and/or how YouTube can be understood as an archive is crucial and, in addition, the issue of how YouTube related content can be used as historical sources. Although many people, including media scholars, treat YouTube like an online open-access archive, there are reasons to be cautious. The article will explore strategies dealing with formal but also with informal web archival practices. These informal archival practices concern users who curate early YouTube videos, user profiles and comments or even old layout versions of the website. Developing methods that critically acknowledges user-generated archival practices, and uses the insights of early generation of users’ reconstructions of the platform’s history, even if it might seem anecdotal evidence, can lead to deeper knowledge of that early community. By actively participating in reconstructing YouTube’s recent past these users shape nostalgic narratives while they also collect and share useful information that guide historians finding new traces.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    Pages (from-to)35-55
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Media History
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 6-Nov-2019


    • YouTube history, web archaeology, digital archives, amateur, informal archival practices

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