Competency C

Understand the evolution of information recordkeeping systems in response to technological change

Interpretation

Data, information and records are born out of all human activity, and computers have become our proxies as we monitor and interact with each other and with our world. Technology extends our communication and cognitive capacities. Because of this, the archives and recordkeeping profession is in constant flux in tandem with the evolution of technology. Recordkeeping and records management must not only keep pace with advances in technology but also anticipate the direction of that evolution. Information lifecycle management should be a core function and foundation of any records or information system.

In many cases unfortunately, the production and processing of information is the only concern of the creator, the user, and the IT specialists implementing a system. The impact of technological change is often only considered after there is a major change in the technology (hardware or software) that negatively impacts performance. In these cases, the evolution of the recordkeeping system is reactive, and this can be a profoundly negative experience for everyone concerned.

Now thirty years after the proliferation of computers and the growth of the Internet, more consideration is being given to the inevitable impact of change on every aspect of data and records. New technologies have come and gone, and our government and courts have struggled to address the broad and profound implications of those changes. We have had to completely redefine the terms and mechanisms of access to information and of accountability in the digital age.

Out of dire necessity, the records management profession has evolved to include technological change as part of risk management, business continuity planning, and digital preservation. Even the notion of what constitutes a record has been fluid and evolving, requiring the application of “diplomatics” to tease out the characteristics and dependencies of a document and a record (Duranti, 1989). Records management has always been closely bound with the media of the age-whether the technology involves papyrus or microprocessors. Each age brings new challenges with regard to the creation, use and preservation of records.

Today the rate of change and the need for special technological expertise represents a series of pivot points for records managers. We must at once be fluent in the technologies that are relevant in our industries and also be actively engaged in understanding the particular requirements of the many stakeholders who use those technologies. We cannot be expert in everything, but we must be effective partners. This entails becoming familiar with specialized terminology and with platform development methodologies.

MARA has prepared me for this challenge by propelling me forward and backward in time, to better understand the larger patterns of the growth and function of archives and records management within a given technological paradigm. Two projects in particular have allowed me to develop a fuller picture of the dynamics and concerns pertaining to recordkeeping and technology.

Supporting Evidence 1

My first evidence of mastery of competency C is an analytical essay entitled DOCAM Research Alliance, the Challenges of New Media Art Preservation. The exploration of the subject highlights key questions facing an archivist or records manager because in any professional setting there is likely to be a plethora of new and older media types, each with its own set of unique characteristics and requirements for effective management and use. The record lifecycle must be considered in conjunction with routine maintenance concerns and in light of changing platforms and media. Within the topic of my essay, the original intentions of the artist and the quality of the viewer’s interaction with the work of art represent additional layers of concern for the archivist. The technical challenges and the cost of addressing them are emphasized and are relevant in any working context.

Supporting Evidence 2

The second item of evidence is a Prezi presentation, A Brief Tour of Map Archives on the Web. This was an exciting project because it underscores the critical association between the documentation and representation of reality and reality itself. Through this project I was also introduced to the enormous potential of GIS software tools for use in image archives. One particular archive that I reviewed in the presentation, The David Rumsey Map Collection, offers specially developed technology tools that enable a uniquely modern experience of the historic map content. This is a delightful example of how thoughtful application of technology can enhance the user experience, allowing the viewer to build new connections and associations among content. The use of enhanced browser-based tools for exploring content also expands the potential audience of these cartographic treasures.

Conclusion

These pieces of evidence illustrate my deeper appreciation of the inextricable connection between records and archives management and the processes and media that surround us. This has been a constant theme within the program, and it has also been a constant in my professional life, where I oversee the daily operations of a creative services department. The creative lifeblood of our business flows through our digital tools and infrastructure without which we could barely function. The regular occurrence of software and hardware upgrades, difficulty in reading older files, and the imminent threat of software and hardware failure touches my entire team on a frequent basis.

It is my duty, trained in best practices in digital asset management and archives and records management, to provide a firm foundation for a planned and proactive stance toward technological advancement, rather than a reactive response to a crisis state. Through my graduate and professional work, I have become an effective partner with IT and technology vendors who are among the many stakeholders. I believe the MARA program has provided me with the knowledge and insights to ensure this foundation in my current job, as well as any future roles.
Duranti, L. (1989). Diplomatics: New uses for an old science. Archivaria 28, 7-27. Accessed on 9/18/2016 from http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/viewFile/11567/12513

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