I have a panel up for evaluation on the SXSW Interactive Panel Picker titled Archival Records Online: Context is King. The evaluation process for SXSW panels is based on a combination of staff choice, advisory board recommendations and public votes. As you can see from the pie chart shown here (thank you SXSW website for the great graphic), 30% of the selection criteria is based on public votes. That is where you come in. Voting is open through 11:59 pm Central Daylight Time on Friday, September 2. To vote in favor of my panel, all you need to do is create a free account over on SXSW Panel Picker and then find Archival Records Online: Context is King and give it a big thumbs up.
If my panel is selected, I intend this session to give me the chance to review all of the following:
What are the special design requirements of archival records?
What are the biggest challenges to publishing archival records online?
How can archivists, designers and developers collaborate to build successful web sites?
Why is metadata important?
How can search engine optimization (SEO) inform the design process?
All of this ties into what I have been pondering, writing about and researching for the past few years related to getting archival records online. So many people are doing such amazing work in this space. I want to show off the best of the best and give attendees some takeaways to help them build websites that make it easy to see the context of anything they find in their search.
While archival records have a very particular dependence on the effective communication of context – I also think that this is a lesson that can improve interface design across the board. These are issues that UI and IA folks are always going to be worrying about. SXSW is such a great opportunity for cross pollination. Conferences outside the normal archives, records management and library conference circuit give us a chance to bring fresh eyes and attention to the work being done in our corner of the world.
If you like the idea of this session, please take a few minutes to go sign up at the SXSW Panel Picker and give Archival Records Online: Context is King a thumbs up. You don’t need to be planning to attend in order to cast your vote, though after you start reading through all the great panel ideas you might change your mind!
A quick and easy place to start is this lovely little video created as part of the promotion of Your Digital Afterlife – it gives a nice quick overview of the topic:
Also take a look at the Visual Map that was drawn by Ryan Robinson during the session – it is amazing! Rather than attempt to recap the entire session, I am going to just highlight the bits that most caught my attention:
Laws, Policies and Planning
Currently individuals are left reading the fine print and hunting for service specific policies regarding access to digital content after the death of the original account holder. Oklahoma recently passed a law that permits estate executors to access the online accounts of the recently deceased – the first and only state in the US to have such a law. It was pointed out during the session that in all other states, leaving your passwords to your loved ones is you asking them to impersonate you after your death.
There is a working group forming to create model terms of service – you can add your name to the list of those interested in joining at the bottom of this page.
What Does Ownership Mean?
What is the status of an individual email or digital photo? Is it private property? I don’t recall who mentioned it – but I love the notion of a tribe or family unit owning digital content. It makes sense to me that the digital model parallel the real world. When my family buys a new music CD, our family owns it – not the individual who happened to go to the store that day. It makes sense that an MP3 purchased by any member of my family would belong to our family. I want to be able to buy a Kindle for my family and know that my son can inherit my collection of e-books the same way he can inherit the books on my bookcase.
Remembering Those Who Have Passed
How does the web change the way we mourn and memorialize people? Many have now had the experience of learning of the passing of a loved one online – the process of sorting through loss in the virtual town square of Facebook. How does our identity transform after we are gone? Who is entitled to tag us in a photo?
My family suffered a tragic loss in 2009 and my reaction was to create a website dedicated to preserving memories of my cousin. At the Casey Feldman Memories site, her friends and family can contribute memories about her. As the site evolved, we also added a section to preserve her writing (she was a journalism student) – I kept imagining the day when we realized that we could no longer access her published articles online. I built the site using Omeka and I know that we have control over all the stories and photos and articles stored within the database.
For as little as $10, you can preserve your life story or daily journal forever: It allows you to store 1,000 pages of text, enough for your complete autobiography. For the same amount, you could also preserve less text, but up to 10 of your most important photos. – Chronicle of Life Pricing
There are also some interesting questions about privacy and the rights of those who have passed to keep their secrets. Facebook currently deletes some parts of a profile when it converts it to a ‘memorial’ profile. They state that this is for the privacy of the original account holder. If users are ultimately given more power over the disposition of their social web presence – should these same choices be respected by archivists? Or would these choices need to be respected the way any other private information is guarded until some distant time after which it would then be made available?
Thanks again to all the presenters – this really was one of the best sessions for me at SXSWi! I loved that it got a whole different community of people thinking about digital preservation from a personal point of view. You may also want to read about Digital Death Day – one coming up in May 2011 in the San Francisco Bay Area and another in September 2011 in the Netherlands.
Image credit: Excerpt from Ryan Robinson’s Visual Map created live during the SXSW session.
I am typing on a laptop in the Samsung blogger lounge at SXSW. Given this easy opportunity to blog, I wanted to share the overarching theme for my experience so far (3 days in) to SXSW Interactive. Data. It is all about data. APIs exposing data. People visualizing data. Using data to make business and policy decisions. Graphing data to keep track of web site and application performance. Privacy of data. Crowdsourcing data. Data about social media behavior. And on and on!
It has been a common thread I have traced from session to session, conversation to conversation. I expect someone with less of a database and metadata fixation might see something else as the overall meme, but I have a purse full of cards pointing me to new data sources and a notebook full of URLs to track down later to defend my view.
I keep catching myself giving mini-lessons on archives and preservation of electronic records like some sort of envoy from another universe. While I feel like a strong overall tech person at an archives conference, I feel like a data and visualization person here. This morning two of my sessions were over in the same hotel that SAA in Austin was hosted in and it was strange to be in that hotel with such a different group of people. I have managed to connect with an assortment of digital humanities folks. Someone even managed to find space for and plan an informal event for tomorrow night: Innovating and Developing with Libraries, Archives, and Museums.
My list of tech to learn (HTML5, NoSQL) and projects to contemplate and move forward (mostly ideas for visualizations using all the data everyone is sharing) is getting longer by the hour. It has been a process to figure out how to get the most I can out of SXSW. It is definitely more a space for inspiration than for deep diving into specifics. Letting go of the instinct that I am supposed to ‘learn new skills’ at a conference is fabulous!