Archiving Internet Subculture: Encyclopedia Dramatica

EDIT: Pointed out in comments that we wrote 4901 articles instead of actual total of 9401 articles.

The Web Ecology Project is dedicated to the preservation of digital culture and folklore. In a recent talk about the Archive Team, Jason Scott elucidated the usual strategy that companies employ for dealing with digital artifacts, platforms, and communities:

Disenfranchise. Cut off any amount of support or awareness by users of their environment and what they are putting their lives into.

Demean. When a site falls out of favor, act like it’s an electronic ghetto, not worth consideration as a valid entity. Think Friendster, orkut, myspace, geocities and a dozen others. Say their name in the company of people who understand the technical issues, and they snort. For a lot of people, these sites are parties, and the party is over.

Delete. Give a random amount of warning, and I mean, it really is completely arbitrary and made up, and then delete, with no recourse, nobody to ask for a copy, nobody to contact to retrieve your lost data, your husband’s history, your child’s photos. I’ve seen periods as long as a year and as short as 48 hours. There’s nothing, no standardization, no agreed upon procedure for decommissioning these sites. It’s all just being made up as it goes along.

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Recently, Encyclopediae Dramatica (ED) — a wiki dedicated to the archiving of -chan subculture, celebrity, and the lulz — was removed from its servers with no effort to preserve the information contained within. While it has been replaced with a new wiki, we at the Web Ecology Project remain disheartened that no opportunity for the preservation of ED was offered nor any warning given.

Luckily, during a recent Web Ecology Camp in mid-February 2011, researchers Seth Woodworth and Alex Leavitt — during a scoping session for a project on Anonymous and Operation Payback — scraped ED and downloaded the textual elements of the wiki. We currently possess .txt files detailing the wiki markup used in the 9401 pages of ED (total at the time of collection), including links and records of images (though we do not possess the actual image files; we also do not have the edit histories, discussion pages, or user pages).

Taking a cue from Archive Team, “we are going to rescue your shit.” For the betterment of culture and research, you can find a link to a .zip that contains all 9401 .txt files, the archive of Encyclopediae Dramatica, below.