I'm starting to look again at how technology has created a 'forget nothing' culture and the implications of that for recordkeepers. Not in terms of our theoretical approaches as I've spent a lot of time on that recently. This time, I want to think about it in terms of the value and role of recordkeeping.

My interest was piqued by two things I encountered at roughly the same time. The first was a periodic re-reading of William Gibson's wonderful essay 'Dead Man Sings'. It includes this line:

When we turn on the radio…and hear Elvis singing…, we are seldom struck by the peculiarity of our situation: that a dead man sings.
— W Gibson, ‘Dead Man Sings’, Distrust That Particular Flavour, Berkley, 2012, p52

The other was the call for papers for the IRMS conference in May. The theme this year is 'Information: the new currency'.

We've been told that information is currency for years now.  Google 'information as currency' and you'll find lots of examples of people characterising it that way; attaching a monetary value to information, often in arguments about identity, creative content or risk.

I was stuck by the juxtaposition between that claim and Gibson's comment about the strangeness of listening to a dead man sing. If dead people sing to me, if I have access to not only my record collection, but to the world's record collection via streaming services, if I can read any book or see any film on a whim, if I can explore human history and creativity at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger, where does that leave the notion of information as currency? If information is ubiquitous, does that make it a commodity? Does that question lead us back to reflections on the relationship between value and context?

The importance of context certainly isn't a new idea, nor would I try to claim that. What I am wondering is whether the information as currency metaphor is a helpful one or whether there are better ways to articulate the value of recordkeeping?

Obviously, I'm thinking out a loud a little in this post as I begin to pull some threads together. If you want to hear my conclusions, I'll be giving them in a paper at the IRMS conference in May. Once I've decided what they are…

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