Archives 2.0 — If We Build It, Will They Come?

Tomorrow, Jane Stevenson and I will be presenting at “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Archivists and Users” (along with Hub alumnus, Amanda Hill). The title of my talk is ‘Archives 2.0: If We Build it, Will They Come?” Yes (sigh) it’s a reference to the film, Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner builds a baseball field as a pure act of faith that They Will Come (including his dead dad) once he’s done.

It’s one of those titles that you think was a good idea at the time when you submit a proposal, and then comes back to haunt you when it comes to pulling everything together. That said, there was method in my madness, and one the main issues I plan to talk about tomorrow is that of user participation. In other words, we might well be able to build the framework for Archives 2.0, but this does not mean that users will participate.

At this present and very early moment in the history of Archives 2.0, are we in danger of being technologically deterministic? In other words, are we so beguiled by what is possible in this heady time of 2.0, where the Machine is Us/Using Us, that we place more emphasis on the technology than on the precise contexts in which we deploy that technology? While we might believe in the ‘Wisdom of Crowds,’ that wisdom is not necessarily translating into archives (or even necessarily library) 2.0. Why?

Here’s an overview of what I plan to discuss:

  • Archives 2.0 as ‘Postmodernity meets ‘Traditional’ Archival Science
  • The problem of technological determinism (i.e. the story we tell ourselves where technology drives change)
  • The problem with the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ approach to Archives 2.0
  • The promise of a ‘Community of Practice’ approach to Archives 2.0

I’ll have my own slides on slideshare before the end of the week, along with Jane’s. But for now, I invite your comment.