Using the Wayback Machine to Understand the Cultural Roots of New Technologies
“I really value having the Wayback Machineas an additional tool in my librarian’s toolbox,” Mann said. “Information preservation is an essential, but often overlooked, part of the infrastructure for teaching and learning.”
Mann, currently working as the Systems & Discovery Librarian at California State University , San Bernardino ( CSUSB ), said he first learned about the value of the Internet Archive in 2006 during his library science master’s program.
Over his career, Mannhas worked at various libraries, tapping into the Archive on the job.
Assisting budding writers, composers and artists as Arts Librarianat University of Redlands , Mann found that the vast amount of free information online, including biographies, can shape students’ projects.
“We can draw on the Archivewhenever 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, Mann also helps computer science and business students use the Archive ’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,” Mannsaid.
“I really value having the Wayback Machineas an additional tool in my librarian’s toolbox.” Sanjeet Mann , librarian
On a practical note, Mannleveraged information through the Wayback Machine when he was researching how to set up a campus laptop loaner program for University of Redlands . This can be an essential service that libraries provide students who have trouble with their computers.
Mannwanted 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 , Mann was able to learn about other approaches and find contacts to follow up for additional details.
The Internet Archiveis 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 oneplatform to another,” Mann said. “An organization like the Internet Archive , 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 , I think there’s value in the Internet Archive being an independent, not-for-profit that operates in the public interest.”
Mannadded: “ Without the Archive , we would lose decades 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.”