Joyce, R. (2008), "Witness Seminar Conference: Examining the issues and challenges of email and e-communications", Records Management Journal, Vol. 18 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/rmj.2008.28118aaa.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Witness Seminar Conference: Examining the issues and challenges of email and e-communications
The invitation to engage with fellow records managers, academics and practitioners alike, in the “exploration andcritical examination of key [records management] issues” was enticement enough. The choice of venue for Northumbria University’s 2nd Witness Seminar Conference, St James’ Park football stadium, home of Newcastle United – the “Magpies”, was truly inspired (pica pica being famously intelligent, inquisitive and vocal birds). I was not to be disappointed.
With the masses gathered, the seminar on day one focussed on the transformation of e-mail from a communications tool to a formal output of business transactions. It cautioned that e-mail management is less a matter of format more of content and explored methods to capture the information and knowledge within them.
Seminars the next morning concentrated on the people perspective including cognitive psychology and the impact of behaviours. The concept of a “licence to e-mail” was suggested as a means to educate non-records managers about risk, roles and responsibilities.
The afternoon speakers looked at evolutionary trends; the difference between prediction and projection; the cross-over between theory and practice; how best to ensure technology is relevant to business need, and how technology had transformed records managers from record keepers to process owners.
Although the title of the event suggested a technology focus, in true debating society spirit PowerPoint was (refreshingly) noticeable only by its absence and -fittingly- discussions were as much about human interface with technology as technology itself. And the “witness seminar” format proved a huge success, in equal measure holding balance and tipping the scales but always drawing the audience into lively and informed debate; invocation of the Chatham House Rule encouraging open information sharing.
The event was a fantastic opportunity to socialise and bond with fellow professionals, to consider records management on multiple levels, from an array of perspectives with practitioners across all sectors. Congratulations to the School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences records management research team for their considerable industry in organising such an informative and enjoyable event, and to the speakers whose presentations stoked the fires of ensuing discussions.
For even those with a no more than passing interest in records the event is unmissable1, offering thought-provoking windows into the world of information management, a process in which we daily engage but rarely consider. Like the much-maligned magpie, the audience stole away with their fair share of records management gems and nuggets of wisdom, better informed and better prepared for the challenges ahead.
1. The first witness seminar conference was held in May 2006 and it is now planned to be a biannual event.
Russell JoyceTakeda Global Research and Development (Europe) Ltd, London, UK
About the author
Russell Joyce is Archivist and Corporate Records Manager at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. He began his records management career in 1994 at the Serious Fraud Office and has since worked for Merrill Lynch, KPMG, Lawrence Graham (Lawyers), Covington and Burling (Lawyers) and worked as an independent consultant at Camden Council. Russell’s professional interests lie in the legal and compliance aspects of records management and the use of technology to create “less-paper” offices. His leisure interests include European fin-de-siecle literature and hill walking.