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Critical care for the early web: ethical digital methods for archived youth data

Katie Mackinnon (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 21 April 2022

Issue publication date: 18 July 2022




This paper aims to provide a brief overview of the ethical challenges facing researchers engaging with web archival materials and demonstrates a framework and method for conducting research with historical web data created by young people.


This paper’s methodology is informed by the conceptual framing of data materials in research on the “right to be forgotten” (Crossen-White, 2015; GDPR, 2018; Tsesis, 2014), data afterlives (Agostinho, 2019; Stevenson and Gehl, 2019; Sutherland, 2017), indigenous data sovereignty and governance (Wemigwans, 2018) and feminist ethics of care (Cifor et al., 2019; Cowan, 2020; Franzke et al., 2020; Luka and Millette, 2018). It demonstrates a new method called an archive promenade, which builds on the walkthrough and scroll-back methods (Light et al., 2018; Robards and Lincoln, 2017).


The archive promenades demonstrate how individual attachments to digital traces vary and are often unpredictable, which necessitates further steps to ensure that privacy and data sovereignty are maintained through research with web archives.


This paper demonstrates how the archive promenade methodological intervention can lead to better practices of care with sensitive web materials and brings together previous work on ethical fabrications (Markham, 2012), speculation (Luka and Millette, 2018) and thick context (Marzullo et al., 2018), to yield new insights for research on the experiences of growing up online.



This work was supported by the eQuality project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Thank you to the reviewers, editors and colleagues who have read and provided feedback and support. I would also like to thank the AoIR 2020 doctoral colloquium and the AoIR 2021 conference, where this work was developed and presented.


Mackinnon, K. (2022), "Critical care for the early web: ethical digital methods for archived youth data", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 349-361.



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