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The Impact of Web 2.0 on Archives



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  • Web 2.0” is an umbrella term that is used to refer to a new era of Web-enabled applications that are built around user-generated or user-manipulated content, such as wikis, blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites.
  • Pew Internet (2009): 19% of UK adults have used Twitter
  • The concept of the archive online is still a relatively new one, and as a community we are still very much exploring the implications of these evolving spaces for the understanding of the archive. In the last decade, certain online activities have become commonplace in our outreach practices: the creation of online exhibitions, use of listservs, emailers and newsletters to reach target communities. And in the late 1990s, especially, issues of online access came to the forefront of our discourse, with groundbreaking work on developing electronic archival description, archival networks and interface design as a means to reach out to many more users, and also create efficiencies for existing ones. Daniel V. Pitti, “Encoded Archival Description: the Development of an Encoding Standard for Archival Finding Aids,” American Archivist 60, no.3 (1997): 268-283.National Council on Archives, “Archives On-Line: The Establishment of a United Kingdom Archival Network” (1998)Wendy M. Duff, Penka Stoyanova “Transforming the Crazy Quilt: Archival Displays from the User’s Point of View”, Archivaria 45 (Spring 1998): 44-79
  • What are the lessons we can learn from those who are taking pioneering steps before us, and the stories which are detailed through these case studies? The changing nature of outreach via the wealth of Web 2.0 channels available to us means we are in a period of experimentation – discovering new ways to engage with end users, and to be archivists in new spaces. As the case studies demonstrate, we are in a period of flux, where we are renegotiating issues of control, authority, voice and trust. As Stephen Fletcher puts it when referring to the creation of a blog about processing the Hugh Morton collection: “we faced no institutional formalities or approvals, wrote no mission statements, policies, nor measures of success.”
  • Importance of cost/benefit analysisImportance of a strategic direction – understanding your priorities, understanding how best to achieve your aims. Ease with which many Web 2.0 tools can be usedSense of something informal – not ‘serious’Probably do need to start to get evidence of impact. Managers may start to require this as web 2. tools become more embedded into our mindset and culture. Maybe, like everything else, they will need to be justified.
  • Book: Realising The Potential of Twitter: The Complete Guide for Museums
  • Appealling to people in a way that is appropriate to the channel usedThe social web is built around people posting content on things that interest them personally
  • I think there’s a vague sense of threat with this big new world where users seem more in control. I wonder if there are still many archivists like someone I know quite well who told me she saw no point in being on the Hub or A2A because they have their own catalogue.
  • Professional, expert, trustworthy (vs) Engaged, approachable, flexible, open
  • “a lot of what we think we know about categorization is wrong” constraints do not apply in a virtual world
  • Make sure archives are safe and secure.Archives are a result of human activitiy and part of culture and societyWe should acknowledge and use our collective responsibilityBut do we want to move away from niche audiences and academic preconceptions?Shift to filtering after publishingHub on Twitter: 1,470 followers (we are following back 1,199 )Hub blog – for past year 10,053 views and 7,569 unique page views. Average time on page 1:55.
  • There is a sense of equality around web 2.0. Traditional hierarchies count for a great deal less. It irons out differences in income and education. 51% of American internet users post content they have created themselves; 34% if you just take 30-49 year olds.
  • Web 2.0 technologies, intrinsically participatory, and focused on sharing, collaboration and mutual meaning-making, are now being effectively exploited by many among us in order to find new ways to reach out to users, and promote not only new use of the archive, but also new understandings of it. In many regards, these new forms of outreach are logical extensions of existing outreach activities, but social media in particular is transforming the concept of outreach itself in positive, and sometimes challenging, ways.
  • Concerns over interoperability (different formats working together), government regulation and commercial interests were seen as key barriers to a universal internet. "Real interoperability will be contingent on replacing our bias for competition with one for collaboration. Until then, economics do not permit universal networking capability." (Douglas Rushkoff, author and social commentator)The repondents were split over the whether the impact of people's lives becoming increasingly online, resulting in both less privacy but more transparency, would be a positive outcome. Will the powerful remain less ‘transparent’?
  • Web 2.0 is a mindset


  • 1. The impact of Web 2.0 on archives
    Jane Stevenson, The Archives Hub
    Look-Here! Project workshop on Web 2.0
  • 2. What does Web 2.0 mean for the archives profession?
    the unknown
    the personal and the professional
    letting go
    making the most of our environment
    preservation issues
  • 3. Some figures...
    Pew Internet:
  • 4. August 2010
  • 5. The unknown
  • 6. A leap of faith?
    “There were no formal usability studies.” (Case studies: blog)
    “..colleagues strong-armed me into joining.” (Case studies: Facebook)
    “[It] started as an experiment…it was on a whim that our Director of Online Strategy signed us up for an account.” (Case studies: Twitter)
  • 7. Joining the Web 2.0 world
    Often a lack of preparation, more experimentation
    Sometimes reverse-engineering business drivers to fit
    What can be gained from embedding this into your strategy?
    What can be gained from a spirit of adventure?
    The impact of changing expectations
  • 8. An intellectual exercise?
    Twitter for Museums: Strategies and Tactics for Success
    “a 412-page hardback book, containing 25 practical, how-to articles and case studies from leading international museum professionals and a highly-experienced International Advisory Board”
    "A Different Kind of Web: New Connections between Archives and Our Users with Web 2.0”
  • 9. Weighing it up
    If you can do it quickly, then finding out whether it works by doing it *might* be more fruitful than discussion, debate, reports, background reading and attempting impact analysis before the event.
    But think about what you are committing to:
    A good blog requires regular blog posts
    Building a following on Twitter requires regular tweets
    Providing images on Flickr or videos on YouTube does not require regular effort, but IPR is an issue
  • 10. The personal and the professional
  • 11. “I have found that one of the most significant challenges with using Facebook is striking a balance between your own personal and private persona and the persona and role the individual plays as an information provider and advocate for their repository and its holdings via Facebook.” (Case study: Facebook)
  • 12. Informal approaches
    Blending of professional and personal
    Personality and informality is part of the image
    What is appropriate?
    What do we feel comfortable with?
    Is it easier for ‘digital natives’?
  • 13. Letting go
  • 14. The issue of control
    Control of...
    the archive over time - preservation
    the handling of the archive - access
    the description of the archive – potential access
    the sense of the archive
    the reputation of the archive
  • 15. The values we hold dear...
    Concerns of the archivist
    Benefits of Web 2.0
    More users
    Added value
    Greater access
    Numerous contexts
    Professional support
  • 16. People power
    Individual points of view matter
    “By forgoing formal classification, tags enable a huge amount of user-produced organizational value, at vanishingly small cost.” (Clay Shirky)
    “Each individual categorization scheme is worth less than a professional categorization scheme. But there are many, many more of them.” (Schachter)
  • 17. Crowd-sourcing
    The “wisdom of crowds” may be controversial
    The power of crowds is unarguable:
    ( least in theory)
    Some data versus no data...?
  • 18.
  • 19. Making the most of our environment
  • 20. We want to:
    Grow our audience
    Diversify our audience
    Show that archives are relevant and meaningful
    Encourage active engagement
  • 21. So we need to:
    Move from the passive to the active and inclusive
    Understand our new/potential users
    Take some risks
    Let go a bit!
  • 22. Web 2.0 can help with
    Building networks
    Professional support
    Making friends
  • 23. A recent UK study Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World, concludes that Web 2.0 has a profound effect on the behaviour of students, in particular encouraging a strong sense of communities of interest and a greater tendency to share and participate than previous generations. The report concludes that the “world they [the students] encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms.”
    Ann Hughes (Bellevue Consultancy), “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World”. (2009)
  • 24. “Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for”
    Clay Shirky
  • 25. Blogs provide a new type of communication
    DNA and social responsibility blog
    PaxCat project for Peace Archives
    Kew Trainee’s blog
  • 26. Twitter enables conversation & networking
  • 27. YouTube and Flickr access mass markets
    University of Glasgow YouTube:
    National Maritime Museum Flickr:
  • 28. But its not all a bed of roses...
  • 29. Some thorny issues?
    Is it permanent?
    Is it interoperable?
    Is it transparent?
    Is it using standards?
    Is it open?
    It is trustworthy?
    And how on earth do we measure its impact?
  • 30. Preservation Issues
  • 31. Preservation
    Who is responsible? What should be preserved?
    Can we address preservation early in the life-cycle?
    Might scholars have a role in this (around their area of research)?
    What about the importance of context?
    Technically, many Web 2.0 channels are not difficult to archive, at least in a basic sense (LoC – Twitter)
  • 32. Preservation
    Most people don’t pay attention to what software and hardware are doing with their stuff (Chris Prom)
    So who is archiving their social media content at the moment....?
  • 33. ...CocaCola!
    Hanzo provides “internet memory” and “real-time capture and playback” of your websites. Our superior crawl and archiving technology can capture your entire site with Flash and video streaming media. We lead in the provision of webarchives using state of the art software to capture your online presence on Social Web platforms and can reliably playback archived content in their native form.
  • 34. Innovation
  • 35. Innovation
    Leading edge or trailing edge?
    Does the ‘mainstream’ of archivists have the enthusiasm, have the desire, to engage with Web 2.0?
    Is it a question of time? Is it a question of priorities?
  • 36. Some philosophical musings
    Traditionally we organise archives in advance of the researcher using them
    If a user wants something that hasn’t been described/categorised/indexed in the way they are thinking about it then...?
    The archive is what it is, however we choose to describe it. Or does the naming of the world change it?
    Will differences in expression change the nature of archives?
  • 37. Where to now?
    The internet will be a thriving, low-cost network of billions of devices by 2020, says a major survey of leading technology thinkers.
    The Pew report on the future internet surveyed 742 experts in the fields of computing, politics and business.
    More than half of respondents had a positive vision of the net's future but 46% had serious reservations.
    Almost 60% said that a counter culture of Luddites would emerge, some resorting to violence.
    Pew Report from 2006:
  • 38. Conclusion: Web 2.0 is a mindset
  • 39. Useful Stuff
    Pew Internet:
    Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies: 15 mind blowing facts about the internet
    Twitter for Museums
    A Different Kind of Web: New Connections between Archives and Our Users with Web 2.0 (ed. Kate Theimer…coming soon)