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On organizing for digital preservation

by Runardotter, Mari, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
Information technology facilitates production and spreading of information, as well as enables the transformation towards e-government and e-services. As a consequence, numerous official documents are born digital, i.e. no paper originals exist. Although there is a lot of ongoing research in digital preservation and digital curation, how digital material is to be preserved for the long-term is still an issue. In the area most research concerns technological aspects. However, the point of departure for this thesis is that the challenge of long-term digital preservation also demands human, social and organizing considerations. This is explored on the basis of how people involved in digital preservation understand, experience and interpret the current situation. The methodological approaches for this thesis are found in interpretative and feminist technoscience perspectives. The Research is also influenced by design perspectives, such as participatory design and systems design, where the latter involves Viable System theories. The empirical material was gathered through participant observations, brainstorming, future workshops, and individual and group interviews. Additional contributions to this study consists of recurrent discussions with systems developers at the Long-term Digital Preservation Centre. The empirical material has been analyzed through ongoing interpretations, discourse analysis, by mapping actors and agendas, and also by themes that have arisen during the research. The research was initiated by exploring the current situation as understood, experienced and interpreted by archivists. Findings from the initial studies suggested that cooperation and communication around digital preservation were not functioning well in many organizations today. Also, responsibility questions were unclear, such as which functions and roles are responsible for digital preservation and what kinds of responsibility are then involved. These questions constituted the continuation of the research and additional studies were made, now from organizing perspectives. A governmental authority has contributed with a ‘best practice' case, which is demonstrated through the lenses of the Viable System Model (VSM) and its underlying theories. The VSM is in this research used as a plan for how to organize digital preservation. However, a plan needs recurrent revisions since people (and technologies) do not always act as supposed. Rather the actions tend to be based on available understandings and knowledges, i.e. situated actions. These in turn, can be viewed as related to ongoing reconfigurations of the world - agency. The main findings are that in order to organize for digital preservation, archival creating organizations should pay attention to humans, technology and the overall organization, and the interplay between these parts. There should be efforts for facilitating collaboration and communication among staff. Identification of preservation processes and where they take place in the organization is important. This can be the foundation for clarification of tasks and responsibilities, where the responsibilities are threefold; the practical, the technological and the strategic. When working on a plan for organizing digital preservation, it is also preferable to involve the staff concerned.Moreover, information technology makes possible the accessibility of the digital material in a totally different way than paper, or analogue archival material. This makes it necessary to modify the view of archives. Hence, a new view of archives is provided; as a more active and living part of the entire information assets held by an organization.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Luleå tekniska universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:

ISBN:978-91-86233-45-7

Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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