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Day 2 Keynote: Clifford Lynch

February 25, 2011

Happy Friday! It’s Day 2 of the Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2011. Time for the morning keynote by Clifford Lynch from Coalition for Networked Information (CNI).

Talking about some of the key issues on Lynch’s mind. We are moving into second generation understanding of personal archives. We can see tensions around this evolution. By the mid-90s, we had realized there was a revolution in personal archiving. We were taking ideas from personal archiving in the physical space into the digital. See problems about saving digital files on bad media, concerned with loss of information esp. via drafting documents online (who keeps different versions of drafts), worried about ephemeral correspondence. But everything was extrapolated from the ideas of personal papers.

Now we are seeing a problem because now there is a shared space online. Material that is shared by groups and made public in limited sense, such as contained social media networks. How do we relate this to personal archives in the earlier sense?

Everything is being shared online and we find that the shared versions have more value because of added comments. We also face a problem of ownership. Example: family archives. Need collective decision making process. Not “pure” individual archives. This can lead to confusion.

Lots of emphasis on what happens to your stuff after you die and about honoring interests of the individuals. But passage of digital objects becomes much less clear when in shared spaces. It is a collective issue.

Implications:
Changes in decision making: collective.
Shared spaces are a vulnerable platform. We’ll see more abrupt shutdowns of online spaces in the coming years.
Digital records are very vulnerable when individuals change jobs.
Platform migration of all kinds in social settings are periods of peril/vulnerability for continuity of material. We need to think carefully about this issue.
Need to think about length of relationships of individuals have with a social platform. (very interesting point with emerging technologies)
How do these relationships with social platforms relate to length of relationships individuals have with memory institutions and archives? Need to figure this out.

Large scale of social media systems: LoC archiving Twitter. Need to have arrangements to preserve this massive amount of public information. We don’t understand this relationship in any complex way. Need to be thoughtful and understand these relationships and how to create these relationships to save this digital information.

Notion of public lives and a sense that there is some minimum record of information about an individual is held by many. We’ve built many systems to record and manage this type of information over the years. These are becoming much more open, connected, and extensive now. For example, look at scale of online genealogy. Lots of move to make information more transparent and more public. Need to think about how public, online social spaces interconnect with ideas of identity and societal relationships.

Question: What is a public part of a life? Do we have consensus? Not really.

What are actions that people can take that can become permanently public? How does this connect with public social spaces?

Many questions about how the individual and his/her information relates into the social setting and issues of public and private.

If we simply extrapolate the challenge from personal papers and shoehorn the development of the shared social spaces into this historic view, we will miss a tremendous amount of the complexity and issues (and potential solutions).

Take away: Personal digital archiving must be seen in a socially connected manner and we need to ask the difficult questions of how the individual relates to the social public spaces and their wishes about how their data is connected and viewed. Wonderful speaker, great ideas, fabulous talk, and a great start to Day 2!

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