Tom Nesmith, Professor Emeritus, Archival Studies, Dept. of History, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada:
Archives, the Public Square, and Digital Public Infrastructure
The increasing volume and importance of digital communications (spurred on by the pandemic) has prompted a major development in digital infrastructure for storage and overall management of these communications – the cloud infrastructure owned for the most part by giant tech companies such as Amazon. Many governments have chosen not to invest in the increased digital infrastructure now required for managing their own records and have “cloud first” policies for their storage. Non-governmental institutions and private individuals are also using the cloud in vast numbers.
The implications for public archives of this historic shift away from the publicly owned information infrastructure laid down for them since the nineteenth century are profound. The shape of the emerging infrastructure underpinning the management of digital communication may well be the most significant lasting feature of the digital environment for societies and their archives. My keynote discusses why that development requires archival voices in the public square to address it.
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Devon Mordell, Educational Developer, MacPherson Institute, McMaster University, Canada:
Oil, Abundance, and Intangibility: Mapping the Contours of an Archives-as-Data Paradigm
Characterizing what he describes as four paradigmatic phases in the archival profession’s thinking around archives and archiving, Terry Cook uses the motifs of evidence, memory, identity and community to represent them. I have elsewhere suggested that a fifth paradigm may be surfacing wherein archives are imagined and operated upon as data sources amenable to computation: that is, a data paradigm. Following Cook’s approach, I will trace out the conceptual ground of an archives-as-data paradigm by highlighting metaphors which have the potential to shape ways of thinking about archives and by theorizing how working with datafied archives may give rise to new notions of professional identity. I will attend particularly closely to the more regressive or otherwise troubling interpretations as a data paradigm takes shape.
In addition to the keynote addresses, the program will comprise two roundtables on current revisions to archival legislation in the Nordic countries and the preliminary results of collecting everyday experience of the corona-pandemic in different countries (Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand).