geert-jan van bussel the theoretical framework for the 'archive-as-is' an organization oriented view on archives - part i The continuum theory and model are based on four dimensions: create, capture, organize, and pluralize, corresponding with four steps of time-space distanciation mentioned by Giddens (1984, p. 298) in an analytic example The dimensions of the continuum describe how organizational archives (and the records captured within them) are disembedded from their original context(s) of use to become a part of a collective memory and carried through spacetime. Their context is represented by the axes of evidentiality, transactionality, record keeping, and identity (Upward, 2005). The theory is not about the archives themselves, it is about the information management activities that add new contexts to them such as capturing them into systems, or adding metadata. The status of archives is interpreted as part of a continuum of activity related to known and unknown contexts, to known or unknown social, cultural, political, and legal processes. According to the theory, it is this metaview, these contexts that are vital to interpret and (potentially) understand the role and value of archives in past, present, and future (McKemmish et al, 2010). A continuum approach highlights from the beginning that archives are both current and historical, representing one of the core concepts of structuration: the duality of structures. Archives and their records are viewed as fixed in content and structure, linked to mutable, ever-broadening layers of metadata to clarify their meaning and to enable their accessibility and usability over time (McKemmish, 2001). Marshall (2000) states that the most important focus of the theory are the multiple purposes of archives (in multiple contexts) over time. Visualizations of the records continuum theory explain it (in essence) as a context theory, emphasizing the ever-broadening layers of contextual descriptions attached to records and archives. The aim of the theory is to provide a framework for conceptualizing archives in multiple contexts over space and time. Creating archives starts before they are created by implementing their requirements in policies, systems, organizations, processes, and laws. These requirements need to be integrated into social and business processes and purposes. The theory is heavily indebted to Australian postcustodial practices (see note 4), Terry Cook's (1992, 1997, 2005) ideas about macro-appraisal, and especially to David Bearman's (1993ab, 1994, 1996 (with Wendy Duff)) work on evidence, transactionality, and systems thinking. The influence of Bearman's extremely complex and inconsistent paper 'Record Keeping Systems' (Bearman, 1993a) is largely responsible for the mentioned axes of 'transactionality' and 'evidentiality'. The theory's most important contribution is its accentuation of the importance of context and contextualizing for understanding the 'contextual narrative' of archives in spacetime. It has become common thinking in archival science that this 'contextual narrative' is an absolute necessity for revealing meaning, for accessibility, and for usability. But despite this long-lasting contribution and its very valuable insights into the context of records, which have greatly influenced my thinking about archives, from its formulation onwards, the theory itself has been on very shaky grounds. 3.1.2. Criticism: omissions, comprehensibility, and philosophical foundations To counter omissions, some revisions of the theory have been suggested. Terry Cook (2000b) suggested (quite sensibly) to separate evidence and memory into their own axes. He also suggests adding a new dimension (besides Create, Capture, Organize, and Pluralize) for archives of private origin. A fifth dimension is also (convincingly) proposed by Yvon Lemay and Anne Klein (2014), namely that of the use ('l'exploitation') of archives. But adding new dimensions to the theory is inconsistent with its structurationist nature. It would break the theoretical link to the four steps of time-space distanciation mentioned by Giddens (1984, p. 298). These steps are the sole reason for the four dimensions of the Records Continuum theory. New dimensions eliminate the possibility to directly link the records continuum to Giddens' structuration theory. Karabinos (2015) created 'the shadow continuum' to correct an omission in the theory concerning archives stuck between dimensions. Michael Piggott (2012), an Australian supporter of the theory, made several remarks about the theory's problematic comprehensibility and its abstract nature. He states (2012, p. 180) that 'the core texts are not always easy to understand' and that it is very difficult 'to comprehend the intended meaning of continuum writing'. More problematic is his contestation that the continuum model is an abstraction that relies 'on the viewer to draw a correct inference' (Piggott, 2012, p. 183). That is confirmed by Karabinos (2015, p. 14) who states that it is the reader to make conclusions on what the model attempts to visualize because the model is 'confusing and vague'. One could characterize this as a postmodernist expression, but it is, of course, problematic, for a model that seemingly cannot convey its meaning in a straightforward way is very difficult to test (Piggott, 2012, p. 185). The philosophical foundations of the theory are also heavily criticized. Verne Harris (2004, p. 215-216) condemns, in quite strong terms, Sue McKemmish's (2001, p. 347) claim for the model as 'post-modern philosophical thinking' and to be 'universal' as 'the worst case of misidentification', as 'a co-opting - or colonising - move designed to have us believe that what is a wild tiger is only a domestic cat' and the fact that she 'ignores the fact that postmodernisms seek relentlessly to disturb every totalising conceptual container'. Harris is opposing the (theoretically untenable) totalizing worldview of the theory that ignores existing differences in information and records management. Andrew Lau (2013, p. 200-204) finds the structurationist theoretical foundations inadequate. Using Manuel DeLanda's (2006) neo-assemblage theory and its different view of society6, he analyses the continuum theory and reveals, for instance, the mechanistic view of society and social complexity that allows for the reductionist approach the theory needs to identify stabilized entities that create archives. Such a view, however, is only one way archives in liquid times 28 6 Manuel DeLanda's neo-assemblage theory is an elaboration of the ontological framework developed by the postmodernists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in: Capitalisme et schizophrenic 2: Mille plateaux, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1980. The theory offers a bottom-up framework for analyzing social complexity by accentuating exchangeability, indefiniteness, and multi-functionality. Deleuze and Guattari's assemblage theory is an approach that stresses that entities are not fixed, not predetermined, and not stable in their ontology or location. Assemblages are formed through coding, stratification, and territorialization processes. An assemblage, consisting out of imaginative articulations among heterogeneous elements, defines the relationships with the bodies in and around it, and demonstrates social complexity. See also: J.D. Slack, J. Macgregor Wise, Culture and Technology. A primer, New York, Peter Lang, 20142. Delanda's starting point is his argument that assemblage theory is a reaction to the theory of organic totalities. In his opinion, all 'parts' have some independence regarding the assembled 'whole' they help to constitute. Although a 'whole' will change following the addition or removal of an individual 'part', the components themselves do not need to change as a consequence of the new (dis)assembly. Assemblages, though dynamic, are part of historical processes. DeLanda defines a reinterpretation of the concepts of Deleuze and Guattari that provides a robust theoretical framework for analyzing assemblages. For an overview: M. DeLanda, Assemblage Theory, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016. 29

Periodiekviewer Koninklijke Vereniging van Archivarissen

Jaarboeken Stichting Archiefpublicaties | 2017 | | pagina 16