Social Media and Collaboration Opportunities in the Archival Sector

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Network by Simon Cockell

I previously published a post on the importance of using social media to bridge the gap between practitioners and researchers within the archival sector. Given the response I decided to do a little follow-up with a few social media tips and upcoming collaboration opportunities.

Social media presents us with the opportunity to collaborate with one another, in accessible language which not only increases the reach and impact of your ideas, but also fosters collaborative opportunities. Aligning our professions’ research activities with industry requirements would be to the benefit of us all.

It is essential to engage with social media in a strategic and conscious manner. In order to derive the full potential of engaging with social media I have compiled a short list of the most important things to consider when engaging with social media:

What are you hoping to communicate?

Decide what type of information you would like to communicate to your audience. Are you hoping to explore complex concepts or are you wanting to share information about upcoming events? Remember that one of the most crucial parts of communicating your ideas/innovations are convincing the reader why they should care.

Who are you hoping to communicate to?

Are you hoping to communicate to academics, practitioners or the community with which you work? This determines the language and the approach you take. Don’t shy away from complex concepts when communicating to the lay-person, just ensure that you make your content accessible and interesting. The golden rule: Don’t ever talk down to your audience.

Choose your medium/platform

Different platforms cater toward different content and types of communication. In my opinion, Twitter and Blogging is most widely engaged with amongst Australian archivists.

Twitter

Twitter is most effective as a means of communicating ideas, sharing resources and highlighting upcoming events. The downside of Twitter is that it limits you to 140 characters, which is fine when communicating facts, however in the humanities we are often trying to convey ideas.

Blogging

Blogging allows you to explore ideas more thoroughly and is also free through services such as WordPress. Blogging does take a fair bit of commitment as the best blogs are added to on a semi-regular basis. However, if you are like me and enjoy writing, the content will add up quite organically.

Remember: Don’t just ‘shout into the void’. Social media enables conversation and collaboration to take place. Take advantage of this capability and join the conversation. A forum is no good if no one actually takes hold of the opportunities it presents.

Don’t be afraid of having a considered opinion. This is how you stimulate discussion! The #fundTROVE letter which was written by Cate O’Neill, Nicola Laurent and myself got an overwhelming response because it was topical and also took a stance on an important issue.

Upcoming opportunities for cross-engagement between archival researchers and practitioners:

  • Leisa Gibbons has put out a call for interview participants for her web-archiving research project. She is asking for any researchers or practitioners with an interest in social media web archiving.
  • On the 10th of March, Library and Information Science Research will be hosting a virtual panel discussion in order to consider the roles of researcher-practitioners in Australia. All are welcome to join.
  • Become a member of the Australian Society of Archivists’ Archives Live website. This service is free to the community and offers opportunities to engage on forums and follow blogs.
  • Start reading and engaging with blogs; New Cardigan has a great list of Australian GLAM blogs.

If you have not already done so, consider starting your own Twitter account! You will become aware of the overwhelming amount of opportunities for collaboration between archival researchers and practitioners.

 

No More Gatekeepers! Social media engagement breaks down barriers within the archival sector

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The Five Underlying Dynamics of Social Technologies – Gaurav Mishra

 

The irrefutable strength of social media is in its ability to break down barriers. We usually talk about this quality in terms of social media’s ability to overcome issues of time and space, but in this post I want to focus on its’ ability to overcome barriers between groups; say… between researchers and practitioners in the Australian archival sector.

PLEASE NOTE: This post contains generalisations for the sake of argument.

In recent decades, the archival profession has strived to overcome the ‘gatekeeper mentality’ which has previously hamstrung segments of our profession and harmed members of the wider community (Humphreys and Kertesz, 2012). Now however, I’d like to bring your attention to emerging barriers – those which exist between academics and practitioners within the Australian archival sector.

Consider this; you are at an Australian Society of Archivists’ conference and you have a choice between attending two parallel sessions:

  1. World War II Photography: A practitioners’ guide to assigning titles
  2. Rethinking the Records Continuum Theory

Sure, your interests will naturally draw you toward one choice. However I fear that for most practitioners, theory and research is too far removed from their day-to-day work. Additionally, practitioners may feel that there is little they can contribute to such a discussion. In my view, this is due to researchers’  lack of engagement with what should be their core audience.

Last year, Monash University  invited all members of the archival community to help ‘rethink’ Frank Upward’s Records Continuum Theory. Of the group of about 30 people, only five weren’t researchers/academics by trade.

The gap between researchers and practitioners is in danger of becoming bigger. According to Sue McKemmish, the profession is becoming a victim of its own success;

As our theorists, teachers and teaching institutions become stronger, we are attracting students of a higher calibre who are more likely to head straight through to PhDs without extensive experience in traditional archival practices.

In order to prevent this emerging trend from impacting upon our profession we need to improve communication, from both sides of the ‘barrier’. Conferences should be a good space for such communication to take place, however I find that the parallel sessions at the Australian Society of Archivists’ conferences has a downside; participants go to the sessions which are most relevant to their careers, therefore possibly reinforcing the gap between practitioners and researchers.

Journals are a delayed, one-way communication following the conclusion of research projects. Collaboration opportunities are limited as researchers move on to new projects and also, audience engagement is not supported by journal platforms. Additionally, journal articles are written with formal, jargon-filled language, rendering the research inaccessible to the average reader. This results in research outputs being communicated from researchers to researchers, with a very limited exposure to the practitioners who could put new theories into practice.

The gap is a by-product of specialisation, which is necessary as we pursue innovative archival theories and methods. However, this post aims to suggest a way in which we can aid ‘cross-pollination’ between the researchers and the practitioners.

The breakdown of this barrier would aid researchers in pursuing initiatives which are in line with industry requirements.

Innovations which are aligned with industry requirements are in the best interest of the practitioners. Researchers and academics have a responsibility to create opportunities for input from the sector, and practitioners have a responsibility to help further research by taking advantage of these opportunities.

It is within this space that social media presents itself as a unique solution. As members of the archival profession, whether you are a researcher or a practitioner, consider engaging with social media. Social media enables the communication of ideas and experiences in accessible informal language and forms.

This capability for engagement would go some way towards breaking down this barrier. The benefits of which would include:

  • Stakeholders providing feedback to researchers which provide unique insights and aligns research outcomes with industry requirements, and
  • Increased  awareness of research projects among new audiences.

Social media provides us with a powerful tool with which to break down the barriers surrounding research processes. Researchers, stop limiting the reach of your own research by sticking to traditional methods of communication. Practitioners, take advantage of every opportunity to provide feedback and input for research projects, this will benefit your own practice in the long run. Both of these steps are necessary for the Australian archival sector to continue innovating archival theory and practice.