Competency B

Recognize the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use.

To recognize the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use is, in its most basic form, to have the foresight of the relationships between a responsibility, the carrying out of said responsibility, and the results of said responsibility in social, cultural, and economic context. There is a marked equilibrium of recognizing this basic form as having benefits to carrying it out correctly and having dire consequences when carrying it out incorrectly.

In a social context, having those relationships of responsibility can be “found to determine rights and liabilities of the legal persons participating in the action of the record, and fitted the records continuum view of a transaction as a social interaction which encompasses individual communications, corporate transactions, social and business activities and relationships that are documented in records at all levels of aggregation, as well as incorporating a strictly legal view of a transaction as one that changes the legal relationship of the parties concerned in an action” (Iacovino 2004, 272). With responsible recordkeeping, the social dimensions can extend to more accessible usage and easier “transactions” and interactions between any given two or more parties. Without that responsible recordkeeping, the consequences can range from having a lack of evidence in a litigation (which results in punishment by way of perception) to being unable to settle a dispute about the lateness of a book borrowed from a library due to lack of records of when the book was checked out. These dimensions extend to all social contracts, where expectations are had and created according to users and participants of social activity. Responsible recordkeeping then, should be an extension of the policies that arise from social activity and therefore make discoverability by participants easier.

The cultural dimensions of recordkeeping show higher stakes to recordkeeping responsibly in this context, as records could define the beliefs of a society and the functioning of humanity. Cultural dimensions are essentially defined by the records and how well the recordkeeping responsibilities were carried out. As Deserno points out for multinational corporate archives, “they are part of the collective memory of our time and provide essential information on our current culture and society” (2010, 216). One could absolutely apply that statement to the definition of what the cultural dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and record usage would be. So what would be considered an appropriate representation of a culture and society at the time of the record’s creation would dictate its importance to future users of the record, who are no longer using the record for the purpose of its creation, but to determine cultural factors beyond the record’s function.

Economic dimensions would largely be related to the financial implications of an organization’s recordkeeping responsibilities, particularly the consequences from having a lack of fiscal responsibility with recordkeeping. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) ran into this issue in terms of trying to manage more space for physical records, but “Those who hold the government purse strings, not surprisingly, are reluctant to authorize the acquisition of a huge new paper storage facility unless the NAA can assure them that it has viable strategies for working with agencies to reduce the unsustainable growth in the volume of new paper records; they want to be reassured that the government will not have to fund yet another paper storage facility in another six or seven years’ time” (Cunningham 2011, 22). The fiscal management of records, recordkeeping, and records usage also must be considered, or it may put future records in jeopardy of not having enough funding to be kept. Such consequences further push the economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and record usage, because when records are not kept as planned, that brings the issue of loss in records usage or the financial loss from not following litigation policy, not being able to charge for retrieval, and not building an image of trust and reliability, because the evidence of truth would be gone or improperly kept. A loss of information or the breaking of trust with users (particularly privacy) can lead to a worse financial hit, and therefore loses the financial security to carry out future recordkeeping responsibilities. Therefore, the economic dimensions are defined by the financial and cyclical implications of responsible and irresponsible recordkeeping.

 

Evidence for Submission

Civil War Subject Guide for the National Archives at Philadelphia Final Project Report – Professional Projects (MARA 293)

This final project report details the multiple purposes of creating the National Archives at Philadelphia’s first subject guide and why it was designed to be accessible completely online: to promote record usage on a level that would be more understandable and navigable for the potential record user. However, it is noted that as the project was developed, there were challenges and adjustments made per the available social and economic dimensions of the National Archives at Philadelphia organization.
Individual Definitions for Wiktionary Assignment – Preservation Management (LIBR 259)

This list of definitions was compiled with the intention of becoming familiar with the terminology that surrounds the actions of records and recordkeeping. By consulting contemporary sources and drawing interpretations for ascribing meaning to these words, there is a built-in establishment of cultural dimensions to records, recordkeeping, and records use. This is a so-called snapshot of what the current state of records, recordkeeping, and record usage entails.
Integrity of Documents Case Scenario – Archives and Manuscripts (LIBR 256)

In this posed scenario, which places the student (myself) in the role of archival preservationist at what is presumably Dartmouth College, the president of the college asks the subject of the scenario to remove an ink stain from the original 1769 charter establishing the school. He also requested to have the charter mounted and framed. It became the decision of the preservationist to determine what not only the physical risks to removing the ink stain and mounting the charter would be, but the cultural risks to removing what might be an original part of the charter.

 

What was learned and how it will be applied

The easiest way to grasp the concept of consistently being able to recognize social, cultural, and economic dimensions of records, recordkeeping, and records use is to continue to work in situations that make one consider the unique dimensions that not only are you limited to, but dimensions you might be able to adjust to. It is the situations that makes one assess what responsibilities need to be taken and what relationships between those responsibilities are created in the processes of recordkeeping.

Fortunately, with every new experience in the recordkeeping fields, I am learning to be mindful of what is capable with every task. For instance, when reviewing accessions at the National Archives at Philadelphia, all of the records have to be checked that they aren’t missing, all record movements have to be recorded, all disposition authority paperwork has to be reviewed, and all original arrangements or changes in arrangement have to also be recorded as per National Archives policy and standards. If one of those is not followed, consequences will happen to the records (unintended damage or destruction), the recordkeeper (termination or potential legal issues), and the capacity for records use (inaccessibility or lost information) That is just one task that will require me to consider the dimensions that mold the responsibilities that are set.

References

Cunningham, A. (2011). Good Digital Records Don’t Just “Happen”: Embedding Digital Recordkeeping as an Organic Component of Business Processes and Systems. Archivaria, 71(71). Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://journals.sfu.ca/archivar/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13329/14628

Deserno, I. (2009). The value of international business archives: the importance of the archives of multinational companies in shaping cultural identity. Archival Science, 9(3/4), 215-225. doi:10.1007/s10502-009-9106-1

Iacovino, L. (2004). Multi-method interdisciplinary research in archival science: The case of recordkeeping, ethics and law. Archival Science, 4(3-4), 267-286. doi:10.1007/s10502-005-2595-7

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