Preservation Polandball: Archival Information Package

Herein lies the obscenity laden banter of Germanyball, Swedenball, Americaball (‘MURICA!), and all your other favorite national stereotypes. With the understanding that I would never be able to capture and preserve Polandball in its entirety, this AIP is an attempt to preserve just a small sliver of Polandball materials and culture.  The aim was to grab enough documentation from major Polandball sites, including the structure of the sites, the guidelines surrounding Polandball creation, and discussion amongst Polandball users to accurately represent its culture.  Additionally, I wanted to preserve the comics which in many ways become supplementary to the actual discussions that take place.  

The file structure of my AIP is fairly self apparent.  My AIP contains three top level folders (Webrecorded Sites, Supplemental Materials, and Selected Comics) with an introductory “read me” file containing several additional documents describing Polandball (using items such as Wikipedia’s Polandball page for a more popular descriptive source)  and the preservation intent for the collection.  In doing so, I hope that the user will understand the significance of the collection as well as its organization.  

Preservation Polandball File Structure 1

Webrecorded Sites

As indicated in the Preservation Intent Statement, I decided to use Rhizome’s webrecording tool to capture the structure of Polandball’s three major community sites: Reddit, Facebook, and Wikia.  I also saved PDFs, PNGs, JPEGs, etc. of the sites as a way of maintaining some quality assurance.  Should the code not render properly, the static images of site will help interpret the material more accurately.  As part of preserving the sites that have been recorded via webrecorder.io, I’ve included the webarchive player so that the code can be rendered using the necessary tool.  Obviously, this could become a problem in the future as the tools and platforms evolve, but for now, at least the player is included. One major note on the utilization of the webrecorder tool: the idea behind using this tool would be to browse each page captured as much as possible in order to record the most material.  Otherwise, it’d be just as worthwhile to simply save the webpage as html.  However, the examples included in this AIP are limited given the time constraints of the project.  They stand as a prototype of what would exist in the full AIP.

Initially, I planned on using an annotation tool (Hypothesis) to add context to the material recorded.  However, Hypothesis annotation did not work well on images, and did not seem to download well as part of webrecorder.  My notes did not appear to display correctly.  If I were to have saved PDFs or JPEGs (or PNGs) of the annotation, it would have distracted from the item to be preserved as it would dramatically alter the presentation of the item. I would have to save the annotated PDFs separately from the material already being preserved.  This is a great issue to tackle in future Polandball preservation efforts as there could be tremendous value in describing the historical/political context for the conversations happening on Polandball.  However, the annotation tool didn’t seem to flow well with the overall AIP for this particular project as my goal was to capture pieces of the Polandball world instead of augmenting them.  Furthermore, in order to sufficiently annotate the conversations happening through the Polandball community would take an enormous amount of time and scholarly research which was outside the scope of this project.    

 

Supplemental Materials

One of the most important items to preserve from the world of Polandball were the rules and boundaries as defined by its users and moderators.  The most elaborate and well defined set of standards was outlined on Reddit and has been included in the section.  This also includes the FAQ, the statistics of use, as well as the “joke life preserve” which documents punchlines, themes, and techniques which have either been banned or temporarily retired due to overuse.   As was done in the previous file, the pages have been recorded and the code stored.  PDFs have been included for quality assurance.

The conversations that I’ve had with Polandball users have been of immense importance to this project.  With every interaction, users have emphasized the critical nature of the Polandball community conversation.  In this file, I saved some of those conversations between myself and the users as well as PDFs of the activity in chat rooms.  Because these were conversations that took place outside of direction relationship to the comics, I’ve saved them in supplemental materials rather than inclusion with the comic materials.

In addition to materials produced by the user community itself, I wanted to add external commentary and the reception of Polandball in popular society.  For this reason, I included articles written by unaffiliated journalists about Polandball.  Of all the pieces in my AIP, this is the section I would likely remove for copyright purposes.  I’m not certain as to how preservation copyright would operate on an international level.  Given that some of this material is through international magazines/newspapers, I suspect the rights to preservation would be limited.  Nevertheless, I’ve included them here until further action is taken with the AIP.  To preserve these articles, I took my now standard approach: storing the WARC and creating control images of the article.

 

Selected Comics

The goal of this section of the AIP was two-fold: preserve the comics in order to retain the artwork itself but also to capture the community conversation in its natural environment.  The substantial conversations between Polandball users do not happen in a void.  Rather, they develop following the spark a comic ignites.  Preserving these conversations is no easy task as hundreds of comments can springboard off a single comic based on its content.  Furthermore, preserving the comics in their entirety would literally be an impossible task as no one knows precisely how many exist.

I took a practical approach to the task.  Ideally, a series of ten comics would be selected from the opinions of Polandball users using a survey.  Given the time constraints of the project, I selected ten myself from comics mentioned in conversations with individual users and from those highlighted on Reddit and Wikia (the two sites of the three I’ve preserved that are most focused on the original intent of Polandball itself).

Preservation Polandball File Structure 2

In order to preserve the comics and their commentary, I took a three pronged approach.  I wanted to grab the conversation as it developed alongside the comic.  The most likely site to find well organized and thriving conversation was the Polandball Reddit.  Therefore, I once again used webrecorder to capture the code for each of the ten comics’ pages along with control PDFs.  In addition to this, however, I also saved the comics by themselves.  Where the WARC and the PDFs will help preserve the conversation, the images of the comics are rather small unless expanded through a link.  Because I wanted to maintain the selected comics just as much as the comment threads, I saved the larger versions of the comics separate from the commentary.

 

Conclusion

Despite the fact that this AIP contains such a small slice of the Polandball world, it’s enough to capture the essence of Polandball as it currently exists.  The comics and the culture continue to evolve, but these few files are a snapshot of this moment in time.  If given the opportunity, I’d like to see Preservation Polandball grow and refine.  In order for the AIP to be archived in something like the Internet Archive, I’d want to explore annotation with scholarly sources and description attached, permissions granted from all journalists and news outlets whose articles are included in the AIP, and a true survey done to collect the most important Polandball comics (hopefully a larger sampling!) according to the community.  Yet, heretofore no efforts have been made to preserve Polandball at all, so we made progress.

Polandball can into archive, but still cannot into space

4 Replies to “Preservation Polandball: Archival Information Package”

  1. Good thinking, including the WebRecorder source code! (Which I didn’t, argh.) There are multiple ways to open WARC files but having the code provides context for description like “This was recorded with WebRecorder.” I’m embarrassed to say the preservation needs of preservation tools have not really been on my mind this semester but this is a great way to keep copies of them out there. Would you consider replacing this version of the code with another, future version as the WebRecorder project moves forward?

    If there were only a way to capture the Polandball cursor on Wikia, that would be the icing on the AIP.

    1. Apologies on the delay of response. There was a family emergency which took me away from the online world.

      I agree with you about the cursor, though I’m pretty sure the webrecorder would grab it, no?

      As far as converting the code in the future, absolutely–but that’s only if the package was being monitored and updated. That can be a really difficult thing to stay on top of from a practical point of view, but yes- updates on the functionality of the code would be essential to its preservation.

  2. With so many sources of material, what was your impression from the online community about what constituted “canon”? With so many contributors, are there ever schisms among the faithful (apologies for the religious metaphor, but it’s working so I’m going for it)? As with the animated gif project where the curator tracked down the originators of some of the internet’s classic gifs and then ignored them, are the creators less important than the content?

    1. Many apologies for the delay on this comment. My grandmother passed away, so I was offline for about a week.

      Yes! There are some minor schisms, especially between the Facebook followers and the Reddit powers that be. It seems that the general consensus is that Facebook does not follow the rules of Polandball, and its contributors are therefore not as serious or “legitimate” as the Redditors. I mean, even the Facebook Polandball users will admit that they don’t stick to a very strict interpretation of what Polandball is. Nevertheless, these battles appear to be pretty minor.

      As far as the creators being less important than the content, that is absolutely true. I think that is part of the structure of the Polandball community. The conversation surrounding the comic is the most important thing and the comic is a necessary supplement. Because of that AND because of the fact that there are MANY contributors to the Polandball comics, the importance of the artist is decentralized quite a bit.

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