Sunday, February 24, 2008

Brewster Kahle takes us way back with the Internet Archive

One Lap Top Per Brewster
Originally uploaded by luluisforlovers

Brewster Kahle, the founder and digital librarian at the non-profit Internet Archive, stopped by USF to speak with the Davies students and friends last Thursday. Kahle also helps direct the Open Content Alliance, a collaborative effort among a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content.

Kahle noted that, with Web 2.0, there is a desire to share information that we need to explore now because "we could lost it really quite quickly," he said.

"Knowledge available to everyone is a possibility," said Kahle, " but the political will to live in an open environment is missing from society." Kahle believes in "Universal Access to all knowledge" -- free information to all. "Free as in beer, free as in speech," he said. Kahle works towards this end by focusing on archiving texts, audio, moving images, and software on the web. "We live in an unexamined world," he said.

One of his primary projects is digitizing texts so they can be accessed and easily reprinted. So far he has up to 300,000 books in eight collections. Many of these digitized books are printed out for only $1 a book by the Book Mobile, a library on wheels. He is setting his sights on digitizing the Library of Congress, which houses 26,000,000 unique texts.

The Internet Archive is also home to recordings of 40,000 concerts and 2,500 bands that range from The Grateful Dead to chamber music and 55,000 moving images in 100 collections. These videos tend to be "those films that they showed you in junior high when you had a substitute teacher," Kahle said. This would include things like drive-in movie ads and tobacco industry videos. "It's an influential medium that almost always goes unexamined," he said. Additionally, the site has been recording television 24 hours a day for the last eight years.

One of the most interesting and popular projects the Internet Archive has done is the "Wayback Machine," which takes a snapshot of every page on the internet (with some exceptions) every two months. It has been operating since 1996 and "it's getting pretty big, " said Kahle. It now houses 2 PB of stuff.

Should the Internet be public or private? Open or proprietary?

"How we communicate across generations is in our artifacts. We are in our most interesting phase in the battle over the internet. It's got to be public or we will perish," Kahle said. "Universal access can be one of the greatest achievements; our generation's gift. All you need is curiosity."

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