Internet Archaeology Institute

2021, Bachelorthesis

What does it mean for the transmission of our culture that it largely takes place on the internet? What will the artefacts of the future look like?

The speculative Internet Archaeology Institute is set out to – literally – save the internet. It produces artefacts as manifestations of digital cultures and presents them online. The goal is an active, democratic preservation of virtual culture that neither discriminates nor excludes. Everyone is invited to participate.

The website is the central platform of the institute: Here the ideas and methods behind the work are presented and digital cultural artifacts are presented.

Presented at Wuerzburg Web Week 2021

The Internet does not exist. We want to save it.

The term „Internet“ is often misplaced in linguistic usage and public discourse. It has become synonymous with that which happens within the infrastructure that is the Internet – the actors, events, communities, and companies involved in the network. This imprecision inevitably leads to generalizations, simplifications and stereotyping. And it defuses justified criticism: When people talk about „the Internet“ dividing societies, making us stupid or inattentive, this is fundamentally wrong. It is primarily companies, their structures and conscious decisions. Nothing about it is inevitable or even part of a fixed logic of the Internet. That’s why we need to break away from the imprecise collective term „Internet.“ Only then can we talk in a differentiated way about the network and its actors and contents, examine it and pass it on.

Past and present converge in the network.

On the one hand, the Internet enables access to originally analog, digitized cultures and cultural assets. This is because numerous museums and libraries put their collections online for digital viewing. At the same time, contemporary digital cultural expressions are taking place on the Internet at every second. People post, comment, or generate data simply by having their behavior and browsing history tracked. We act and communicate on the network – based on or in opposition to cultural conditioning. That’s why the Internet is a network of cultures.

Digital cultures are volatile.

Digital cultural expressions are exposed to several dangers: First, technical change itself. This makes data carriers and file formats obsolete. Second, their own sheer mass. The immeasurable amounts of data that are created every second cannot be conquered, and certainly not all of it can be stored forever. The question for our generation will be what is worth preserving and what is not. Thirdly, digital cultures are mainly subject to the decisions of the platforms from which they spring. These have primarily economic interests that take precedence over cultural or preservational concerns at all times. Thus, data loss, deletion, or corporate acquisitions or dissolutions pose real threats to the preservation of digital cultures.

A new way of transmission.

The Institute invites all people to participate in the transmission of digital cultures. We provide information and resources, present and disseminate artifacts. In this way, we hope to create a new kind of democratic cultural transmission that critically engages with its material and invites all interested people to do so. It is about reclaiming autonomy over one’s own cultural expressions, which have been subjected to the power monopoly of platform operators for too long. Learn more at