Essay Sample on Exploring The Complex Interplay Of Factors In The Digitization Of Archives For The Future

Published: 2024-01-14
Essay Sample on Exploring The Complex Interplay Of Factors In The Digitization Of Archives For The Future
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Information technologies Social activities Society
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1667 words
14 min read

Society is always exposed to paradigmatic changes in technological and cultural domains (Knowles, 2016). The societal fabric has been forced to readjust to newer communicative and interactional processes through the generations due to the changing anthropological factors. Humans are always curious to innovate and create new production methods, communication, and knowledge transfer (Rajah et al., 2018). These innovative trends often make monumental changes in human society and interaction processes as they are known in the process. From such paradigmatic changes, human cultural factors may be taken to new levels or substituted by society's continued restructuring (Philips, 2010).

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In recent centuries, such socio-economic paradigms as the agrarian and industrial revolutions changed society's cultural and socio-political processes (Rajah et al., 2018). Due to the rise of technology and communicative methodologies, people began to adjust their spatial and time-bound interaction processes (Philips, 2010). In the post-industrial period, we notice that humans are continuously well-connected through the microelectronics movements that swept the globe in the mid-1900s. Presently, knowledge management and dissemination are the essential components of macro and micro-level interactions globally (Knowles, 2016). In digitised knowledge management, societies continue to shift from the previous cultural norms to newer and more diversified processes. Thus, members of society are developing newer interactional spaces and methodologies (Rajah et al., 2018).

In an increasingly knowledge-based society, individuals and communities often require to find ways to save the traces of their existence and anthropological impacts to the next generations (Rajah et al., 2018). In pre-historic times, historical archives were stored in relatively more straightforward communication media. Such media involved were managed and disseminated to the next generations through word of mouth of manuscripts engraved on such materials as stone tablets and papyrus reeds (Rajah et al., 2018). The power of such cultural communications thus depended on the mode of passage. The more time-defying media of presentation like the tablets created such long-lasting cultural heritage processes, including religious alignments. The space-expansive media (including verbal communication), on the other hand, promoted political power across the regions that such verbal messages reached (Knowles, 2016).

The archival practise is mainly based on the preservation of memory and thus, the relationship between forgetting and remembering. In the increasingly changing institutional and societal settings, the archival presentations and expressions continue to change significantly. As such, the various changes in archivization through the changing societal eras depend on a complex range of socio-political, individual and cultural factors (Philips, 2010). In the digital age, the changes in the archival practices have continued to rely on various intrinsic and extrinsic factors in the digital and cultural systems. This report shall focus on the analysis of these complex factors that influence the shift from the traditional archive, keeping methodologies to the digital methods. This systematic review shall explore the societal and technological changes that continue to shift the archives domain into newer and exciting domains. We hypothesise that the future of archival practice shall rely significantly on the successful adoption and consolidation of technology and anthropological factors. While the humans often appear technocentric with regards to the dissemination and storage of information, the anthropocentric elements are as essential, especially in an information-rich society.

Part 1: The Loss

Archival practice and science deal with the curating of archives. These archives are a collection of data storage devices, recordings, and documents that are stored for future access and usage. Duranti and MacNeil (1996) define archival science by reporting,

"Archival science, which emerged out of diplomatics in the nineteenth century, is a body of concepts and methods directed toward the study of records in terms of their documentary and functional relationships and the ways in which they are controlled and communicated" (p. 47).

As the archival records are intended to outlast the test of time, the science and practice in archiving must purpose to provide better ways for cataloguing, storing, preserving, and appraising the recorded materials. To ensure the trustworthiness of the archives, the archives curator (archivist) must provide the authenticity, reliability and integrity of the archival materials. The records must accurately represent what they claim to be. The content must be able to show a coherent and chronological story and a picture of the events while also being easy to access (Rumsey, 2017).

Archival science arose in the 19th century from diplomatics. Back in 1540, Jacob von Rammingen – a registries expert – wrote the first known archives manuscript (Rumsey, 2017). While the manual did not officially begin the study area of archival science, it started the literature interest around recordkeeping. Later in the 18th century, the first laws related to archives and recordkeeping were defined in France. Such laws began the academic interest in the recordkeeping. In the years that followed, progress in collections and recordkeeping grew across various global locations. Such claims in archival practice increased the storage and transmission of offline records and documentation of cultural and anthropological approaches (Walsham, 2016). Such methodologies as oral traditions and traditional archives began to be formally studies and emphasised in academic and practical domains. The archivists and academics involved in the study of archives started to retrace and adequately contextualise the various forms of traditions and collections from the older generations (Walsham, 2016).

Collections might be an asset, but they are most certainly a liability also (Galavitz, 2016). The information associated with accessible collections is a strength - they should, not just display centres but be able to reach a wide variety of audiences and a large number of people online or offline (Galavitz, 2016). They must be able to communicate the intrinsic and extrinsic components of the societies they purport to represent. Such communications must be scientifically sound and proven through historical and anthropological retrievals. In this first section, the report aims to analyse the various ways through which archives have been lost through the generations. We explore the different ways that archives were passed in previous generations and the potential loss of such artefacts and collections through memory and poor record keeping.

Destruction of Archives

The film "Fahrenheit 451" is a seminal and fantasy-esque presentation of a paperless future (Romain, 2019). Firefighters are tasked with burning books – outlawed at the time – to leave all the required information in digital forms (Romain, 2019). The main question that the chief protagonist grapples with is "Do people still care about physical books?" In trying to figure out the answers to the problem, the protagonist is caught in a fight with his conscience and ends up turning against his mentor (Romain, 2019). While the film is based on the fictitious exploration of the future, it opens the viewer to the potential loss of archives in the physical paper forms. The film may be presenting a relatively hyperbolic form of the present and future worlds. The destructions of the conditions of archives may not be taken literally. However, trends in poor preservation of the archives may suggest a direction towards the destruction (burning) of one form of preservation media (Romain, 2019).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that the world documentary heritage loses last chunks of the archival collections from natural causes annually (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2020). Acidification of paper, destruction of the magnetic tape by light, heat or humidity and such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and fires often create widespread destruction of such archival and library fragments. Cyclones and monsoons also often destroy some of the world's best-preserved treasures every year (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2020).

While most destructive factors for the hidden treasures are often natural, various anthropogenic factors are always blamed for the destruction of libraries and archives (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2020). Most notably, the world wars were observed to cause significant losses to archives and libraries in countries like Yugoslavia, France, Germany, Poland and Italy. While efforts have been made to salvage some of the archives destroyed during the wars, the loss was never fully recovered. It is thus essential that the world documentary heritage is appropriately stored and reassembled in longer-lasting variants to facilitate better archival retrieval. UNESCO thereby encourages that the "Memory of the World" should be preserved through better and more proactive means including vigilance, promotion of world peace and disaster planning (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2020).

The Decline of Oral Tradition

In traditional societies, the various groups of people were identified by distinctive cultural and linguistic identities (Medlicott, 2020). The communities thereby developed communicative channels that were both culturally binding and communally accepted. As such, these societies used oral methodologies through the spatially limited spaces to pass their cultural heritage through the generations. In Africa, for instance, the communities exchanged rich and highly intricate stories and collections of documentation that assisted in preserving the cultures of such societies. The richness of the African and other traditional cultures have, thus, been credited to the deep-rooted interests in passing the oral traditions of their tribal demographics (Medlicott, 2020).

When the African and other traditional societies began to open up to new and different cultures, they started to integrate themselves into such foreign cultures and contexts. In the process, these communities started to learn a second language. As they learned foreign languages, they also began to become indoctrinated in the new cultures that came with the languages. The foreigners made the locals feel inferior in their local traditions and wish to abandon them for more 'civilised' cultures. This began to cause the decline of the pride associated with traditional and contextualised cultures (Medlicott, 2020). Africans and other communities adopted the western forms of civilisation at the expense of their rich and deeply-rooted cultural heritage. Colonisation has, therefore, led to the disruption of various cultures and the passage of the rich archival content that accompany them (Medlicott, 2020).

However, the decline of oral traditions has not been straightforward. In the Middle East and India, for instance, the oral and literary traditions have been seen to co-exist through several generations. The communities adopted the two communicative forms successfully and thus preserved their local traditions through both space and time-proof methodologies. In the rest of the global location, though, the literacy communication forms often came to replace the oral methods.

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