Internet Archives & Documentary Analysis

19 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2011  

James Allen-Robertson

University of Essex - Department of Sociology

Date Written: September 8, 2011


This paper presents the method used to write a detailed history of the digital distribution of media. Working from a timeframe of a decade of internet time, the research sought to understand and describe the individuals, structures and events that brought about a fundamental shift in the way media is distributed and sold today. The research required the development of documentary analysis to draw upon the internet as an archive of archives, tracing the histories across a wide variety of unconventional sources. This flexible method of documentary analysis allowed for the production of a highly detailed intricate history of digital distribution. However this method also illuminated the challenges that utilizing internet based information brings to historiography and wider research practices. Traditionally relied upon concepts of authority, authenticity, validity and proof are undermined by the volatile nature of the internet document and bring challenges to the historian that wishes to document a history that has a significant existence online.

The paper is a substantive attempt to deal with these issues and offers an insight into possible remediation for the difficulties of internet documents. This is achieved by addressing the necessity of flexibility in the definition of the document; how large amounts of historical digital data were organized and interpreted through visual presentation; how the researcher dealt with anonymity of authorship; and authenticity and the digital document. It is not a how-to guide, but an illustration of the issues and affordances brought by the realm of digital documents and internet archives.

Paper to be given at the ICS-OII Symposium, A Decade in Internet Time, September 2011

Keywords: digital method, archive, documentary analysis, visualisation, ICS, OII

Suggested Citation

Allen-Robertson, James, Internet Archives & Documentary Analysis (September 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

James Allen-Robertson (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Sociology ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

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