Sunday, September 21, 2008

Text is said to be linear; or musing on Web 2.0

Many of you have probably already seen this great YouTube video that explains Web 2.0. I watched it last year in a class and again last week in class. According to the counter on YouTube, it has been viewed 6.5 million times and rightly so. It explains how XML, social websites and more change how the Internet works. Another video that covers some of the same ground is Information R/evolution; it focuses more overtly on how information organization is evolving.

I've just been thinking if there are some new ways of getting archivists to make greater use of Web 2.0 tools. Sure, there are archivists blogging here and there and some make use of social software, but adoption is still too slow. Canada is estimated to have somewhere over a thousand archivists, but how many are making use of these tools?

I wonder if Web 2.0 could contribute to problems like these:

- post a list of undescribed or unprocessed materials online and encourage users to comment, vote and discuss on what their priorities are

- let archivists share ratings and reviews of archival software systems, products and other services (rather than relying on email listservs as is the current custom)

- encourage users to submit their stories of what they think about their archives; I wouldn't want it to be a corny testimonial but something along those lines. One could start with a list of academic works that mention a given archives (that's public information that should be better organized and brought to light)

- build in tagging functionality to archival databases as well as permalinks, so that users can share what they find easily (it is a bit sad that this even needs to be suggested...)

- bring users into the description process in some fashion (comments on descriptions perhaps?)


I wonder if the historical/preservation perspective of archivists plays a role in slowing the embrace of new technology? Maybe I'm simply missing out on the archival innovation but that's my impression from where I sit.

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