The purpose of this paper is to introduce a qualitative research approach based on current developments in the field of practice theory. The novelty of this approach is that it positions organizational practices as a central unit of analysis of archival and recordkeeping work. The goal of the paper is to highlight the continuity between practice theory and archival and recordkeeping scholarship and to then propose how practice theory could be used in archival and recordkeeping research.
The paper traces the continuity between practice theory and two influential bodies of literature in archival and recordkeeping scholarship developed in the last two decades. It then outlines a practice theory research agenda for archival and recordkeeping research by drawing on the disciplines of cultural sociology, science and technology studies, ethnomethodology and organizational studies. The potential research application of practice theory is illustrated with examples from an on-going doctoral project on appraisal and preservation practices in a digital broadcasting archive.
The analysis of current literature shows an agreement that archival and recordkeeping practices exhibit a complexity that makes them important foci for further research. By placing these insights into contact with practice theory, the paper champions a new research agenda for archival and recordkeeping research.
The paper positions and outlines the tenets of practice theory, making them methodologically available to archival and recordkeeping scholars and practitioners. It also indicates how practice theory offers a new perspective for conceptualizing the causal effects of organizational culture on organizational practices.
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