geert-jan van bussel the theoretical framework for the 'archive-as-is'
an organization oriented view on archives - part ii
organizations that are generating records and constructing archives. In the second
part of this article, I defined the theoretical framework of the 'Archive-as-Is' that
emphasizes the organizational value of the archive and the organizational challenges
that EIM has to solve.
The theoretical framework of the 'Archive-as-Is' is primarily an organizational theory
on records and archives. The focus of the framework is on the organizations (and/or
persons) that construct archives and create, process, manage, and preserve records
in their business processes and activities. The framework is based on the philosophy
of pragmatism. As is common with each pragmatic theory, there is an unmistakable
relationship with organizational practice. This relationship expresses itself in the
framework's components that are all directly influencing organizational policies,
business processes, actions, and transactions. They have to be recognized by EIM to
improve the organizational processing of records and archives, to fight 'information
chaos', and to guide organizational behaviour.
In the archival spectrum, the framework finds its place between the context oriented
theory of the Records Continuum and the records oriented theory of Digital
Diplomatics. Both theories have influenced the framework. It may be called an
organization oriented archival theory. That is an orientation that is just as
indispensable in a digital world as the context and object orientations are. It has
been 'forgotten' in the frenzy of exciting research following the 'archival turn'. The
framework is a declarative model for understanding the archive 'as is', how it has
been designed, constructed, processed, manipulated, and managed, and how it has
'grown' to be the archive that the organization or the person that generated it, wants
it to be. The three defining components of the theoretical framework can be used by
EIM as an analytical tool to ascertain if all conditions for managing records and
archives are met. The fourth component, the information value chain, offers a
model for EIM to define and implement primary and secondary processes (and
related activities) to realize the dimensions of information, the archival principles,
and the requirements of information access. Organizational behaviour, the fifth
component, stresses the necessity for EIM (and for archivists) to contextualize
organizational practice, to allow for flexible ICTs to offer employees the possibility
to use spaces of contestation 'per factum', and to be prepared for distortion of
Archives shape and control the way history is read. They do. But archives are, from
the moment of their construction, distortions of reality, leading to biased images of
the past. Contextualizing will be crucial to 'correct' that distortion as much as is
possible although the simplified metadata that capture context will also be
distorting reality. In the end, the archive is as it is, a construct configured, managed,
and preserved according to organizational (or personal) demands and desires, with
gaps as a result of appraisal and selection, and, as a consequence, presenting a social
reality that is only mirroring a very simplified and distorted view of the contexts in
wich the records and the archive were generated.
Further research is an absolute necessity. It is necessary to see if the theory can be
used as an analytical tool for EIM. The relationships between the components of the
framework need to be studied more in depth. The relationship between EIM, the
theoretical framework, and the realization of organizational objectives needs more
research. Research is necessary to see if Muller, Feith, and Fruin's statement about
'organically grown archives' is correct within digital environments. The effects of
organizational behaviour on records and archives in daily organizational practice are
neglected in archival research projects at the moment, although they are crucial to
explain why the archive is as it is. I think the biggest challenge for EIM is to find ways
to guide organizational behaviour in constructing and contextualizing archives.
More research is needed in organizational behaviour and human-computer
interaction within spaces of contestation that extremely influence accountability
and archiving. Activity theory may be a very useful theory for research in that regard.
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