Using the Wayback Machine to Understand the Cultural Roots of New Technologies

By admin
As an academic librarian helping connect students and faculty with the research materials they need,

Sanjeet Mann
PERSON

has turned to the Internet Archive many times.

“I really value having

the Wayback Machine
ORG

as an additional tool in my librarian’s toolbox,”

Mann
PERSON

said. “Information preservation is an essential, but often overlooked, part of the infrastructure for teaching and learning.”


Mann
PERSON

, currently working as the Systems & Discovery Librarian at

California State University
ORG

,

San Bernardino
GPE

(

CSUSB
ORG

), said he

first
ORDINAL

learned about the value of the Internet Archive in

2006
DATE

during his library science master’s program.

Over his career,

Mann
PERSON

has worked at various libraries, tapping into the

Archive
ORG

on the job.

Assisting budding writers, composers and artists as

Arts Librarian
ORG

at

University of Redlands
ORG

,

Mann
PERSON

found that the vast amount of free information online, including biographies, can shape students’ projects.

“We can draw on the

Archive
ORG

whenever we need inspiration for creative work, or when we need to understand how current scholarship and the issues that we’re facing now aren’t completely new—they’re based on this history of work by scholars, by politicians, by citizens active in the public interest,” he said. “These issues tend to recur over time. As a society, we need to know where we have been in order to meet the challenges of the future.”

At

CSUSB
ORG

,

Mann
PERSON

also helps computer science and business students use the

Archive
ORG

’s collections to better understand the cultural roots of new technologies—the historical context for their innovations.

“It is the only entity I’m aware of that preserves the Internet’s scholarly and historical record at this scale,”

Mann
PERSON

said.

“I really value having

the Wayback Machine
ORG

as an additional tool in my librarian’s toolbox.”

Sanjeet Mann
PERSON

, librarian

On a practical note,

Mann
PERSON

leveraged information through

the Wayback Machine
ORG

when he was researching how to set up a campus laptop loaner program for

University of Redlands
ORG

. This can be an essential service that libraries provide students who have trouble with their computers.


Mann
PERSON

wanted to understand policies at other universities, such as how they handled the return of damaged laptops. Looking at archived versions of university library websites through

the Wayback Machine
ORG

,

Mann
PERSON

was able to learn about other approaches and find contacts to follow up for additional details.


The Internet Archive
ORG

is a source to verify information that is no longer listed on websites, he said.

“Companies themselves don’t have any incentive to archive the history of their website. New products get launched. The platform gets migrated from

one
CARDINAL

platform to another,”

Mann
PERSON

said. “An organization like

the Internet Archive
ORG

, being a library, is uniquely positioned to meet the need in society of ensuring some kind of continuity of memory and having a public record. Especially with the government being very partisan

these days
DATE

, I think there’s value in the Internet Archive being an independent, not-for-profit that operates in the public interest.”


Mann
PERSON

added: “

Without the Archive
WORK_OF_ART

, we would lose

decades
DATE

of information about our society at a crucial turning point in its development, eroding trust in online systems and requiring educators, students and researchers to reconsider the way we do our work and share it with others.”