Thesis Title: "We Think Not I Think": Harnessing collaborative creativity to archival practice; implications of user participation for archival theory and practice.
About My Research
Recent years have seen significant growth in collaborative initiatives in the archives domain, encouraging greater user participation in 'professional' activities and seeking to unlock user knowledge for the benefit of the archive service and all its users. Much of the interest in this area has focused around the potential of Web2.0 technologies and social networking software. These developments parallel a cultural shift which has challenged the authority of the expert. User-generated content is flourishing, sometimes at the expense of traditional professional or expert voices. Despite much argument between advocates of the ‘crowd’ and the ‘expert’, there is no real understanding of what moves to allow a multiplicity of voices to supplement or even supplant the single, authoritative professional voice might mean for archival theory and practice.
The objectives of the research are:
• to distinguish between and evaluate different approaches to user engagement with the professional world
• to identify attributes which enable ‘success’ or lead to ‘failure’ in user participation in archival activities
• to develop a conceptual model of user collaboration in archives
• to understand better the implications in terms of resources, technology and professional practice of seeking to implement successful models of user interaction with archive services
• to evaluate whether, in this light, user contribution has a role within the formal process for archival description determined by the international standard ISAD(G)
My working Research Questions are:
1. Is user participation an evolution or revolution in archival practice and professionalism?
2. What contexts and circumstances encourage and motivate users to participate in archival description?
3. What impact do participatory methodologies have upon (a) existing users and (b) new users and broader society?