Colloq: A Cool New Tool for Archiving Social Media

Rhizome, an affiliate of the New Museum, isn’t a particularly new organization—it was established in 1996 to support art and technology. Yet as an arts organization founded on the internet and focused on fostering digital culture, Rhizome has been developing quite a few interesting tools and initiatives that help re-think artistic creation, and redefine what it means to create contemporary art within the context of technology and the internet.

Fostering a richer, more critical digital culture requires a body of work for artists and scholars to draw from, study, understand in context, and even cite. Since Rhizome is particularly interested in art that’s happening online, they’ve recently developed a tool called Colloq to preserve web content in a contextual archive. Other kinds of web harvesting treats web content as static objects or data sets, and it often requires painstaking scoping work to capture all necessary content. The Internet Archive, for example, has built an incredible archive of web pages, but more dynamic web content is often lost with their approach. In contrast, Colloq treats online interactions and conversations as events or performances to be recorded.

Social media interactions, in particular, are difficult to capture in a traditional web archiving sense, so Colloq takes a two-pronged approach, in which web recording software writes HTML and JavaScript from live pages on the fly to replicate the look and feel of proprietary platforms (e.g., Google Maps, Instagram) and capture time-based media (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo), while another server is used to replay anything saved in a web archive file format. So far, Rhizome’s Colloq has collected several online art performances that will live on in its own archive. Yet perhaps more importantly, Rhizome has created a tool to archive online behaviors for later research and citation that anyone can use!