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Visualizing information in the records and archives management (RAM) disciplines: Using Engelhardt’s graphical framework

Pauline Joseph (Department of Information Studies, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Jenna Hartel (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 20 November 2017




This paper aims to explore the concept of information in records and archives management (RAM) from a fresh, visual perspective by using arts-informed methodology and the draw-and-write technique.


Students and practitioners of RAM in Australia were asked to answer the question, “what is information?” in a drawing and then to describe the drawing in words. This produced a data set of 255 drawings of information or “iSquares”, for short. Compositional interpretation and a framework of graphic representations by Engelhardt were applied to determine how participants envision information and what the renderings imply for RAM.


The images reveal an overwhelming recognition in RAM of the diversity of media formats of information and the hyperconnectivity of information in networked information systems; and illustrate the central place of human beings within these systems. These findings offer striking, accessible illustrations of major concepts in RAM and enable new understandings through the construction of stories.

Practical implications

There are both pedagogical applications and practical implications of this work for students, practitioners and knowledge workers. The graphical representations of information in this research deepen the understanding of textual definitions of information. The data set of iSquares provides opportunities to create new storyboards to explain information definitions, practices and phenomena in RAM disciplines, and, to explain related concepts such as data, information, knowledge and wisdom hierarchy.


This is the first study in RAM disciplines to provide visual illustrations of information using graphical image representations.



The authors thank Curtin University for the Visiting Fellow Grant that enabled this international collaborative research between Curtin University and the University of Toronto. The authors also record their thank you to Curtin students and RAM professionals in Australia for participating in this research.

Aspects of this paper were presented at the: Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) Conference; the Records Information Management Professionals of Australasia Conference (RIMPA) in 2015, 2016 and the International Council of Archives Congress Conference in 2016.


Joseph, P. and Hartel, J. (2017), "Visualizing information in the records and archives management (RAM) disciplines: Using Engelhardt’s graphical framework", Records Management Journal, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 234-255.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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