There's something that's been bothering me about this whole Archives/RM 2.0 business and since I wrote the last post and during the drive home this evening I've been able to put my finger on what that is:

Responding to and engaging with technological change does not imply, in and of itself, a fundamental change to our professional values or goals.

Is it correct, therefore, to refer to version 2 of our profession? Yes, things may need to change and areas we need to consider carefully are, as
Steve Bailey pointed out in his book Managing the Crowd, things like scalability of practice, responsiveness and definition. But does that imply a fundamental change in our goal? My shorthand for that has always been:

The right information (or records), kept for the right amount of time, for the right reasons and used by the right people.

You could use ISO 15489's 'integrity, authenticity, reliability and usability' and deal with that more formally, but the sentiment is the same.

I raise this because the title 'Web 2.0' does imply a fundamental change from the passive consumption of the web to a participatory model; the web as a platform. I use web applications now in the same way as I use ones running under OS X or Windows in the office. Many Web 2.0 applications are capable of things not possible with desktop computing alone. Yes, you could argue that the web is still used for passive consumption in the same way as it has been since its inception and that not everyone takes advantage of Web 2.0, but the fact that the web can be used for computing in ways that were impossible even as recently as five years ago does indicate the level of significant change that warrants description as version 2; a fundamental shift.

So are we seeing the same sort of fundamental shift in archives and records management? Practically, it appears true that the profession needs to adapt. Theoretically, it may need to evolve. But is this fundamental change? The continuum model can be successfully used as a way to conceptualise record keeping in a Web 2.0 world. In many ways, that conception seems more relevant that ever because of the developments in online technology. Moreover, and to stretch a point, this blog (or even a service like like
twitter) displays a life cycle of sorts. A post is current, the is replaced but stays on the front page of the blog in a semi-current state until such a time as it moves off the main page and is 'archived'. We've had the concept of 'total archives' and attempts to capture a broader, more representative, record for some time now. These are evolutionary changes in our conception and understanding of our profession and our role. They do not change the fundamental aim of trying to preserve the right information for the right length of time etc. Rather, they provide ways of understanding and working towards that aim.

The question I have is whether online technology is changing our fundamental aims as archivists and records managers, or even whether it should? If it isn't, then all this talk of version 2.0 is perhaps not as helpful as it could be. In essence, are we simply talking about a process of engaging with someone else's revolution to ensure that the record is maintained and preserved, rather than a re-examination and re-interpretation of our core values and goals? If that is the case, haven't record keepers always tried to do that (even if it has resulted in varying levels of success)?

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