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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Records Management Journal, Volume 21, Issue 3
Recently England witnessed some events that shocked the nation and no doubt others around the world. Riots in the capital city lead to looting, the destruction of buildings, businesses and homes and were followed by similar events in other cities in the country. The tragedy of the loss of several lives, the calm and dignity manner of the father of one of those innocent victims caught up in the events, and the quiet determination of those whose lives and livelihoods had been devastated, were very humbling. So serious was the situation that the country’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, recalled Parliament from its normal summer recess, meaning he and many MPs had to cut short the holidays. Cynics might say that it no hardship, it certainly isn’t unprecedented in other working situations, but time with families and friends are precious and often all too rare. Coincidentally, I was taking one of those all too rare days of leave and had plans to spend it with my family walking; but those plans were thwarted by a typical day of British “summer” weather – incessant, heavy rain. As a result I saw live coverage of the Prime Minister’s speech to Parliament in which he outlined what had happened, what the government and the police forces were doing to restore order, and what the government was doing to support the victims of the unrest, before turning to the deeper problems, the root cause of the riots. Irrespective of one’s politics, this sitting of Parliament was one that was memorable. Speeches from both sides of the house were at times sobering, similar, supportive and resolute in the determination to stop a minority spoiling society for the majority.
But what struck me from an information management perspective, my déformation professionnelle, was the reference to the fact that social media (such as Twitter and Facebook) and Blackberry Messenger had been used to organise the events. This caused the Prime Minister to state that “free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”. This no doubt raises issues of liberty, privacy, human rights etc. etc. which will be heavily contested but it was the records management angle that I reflected upon. Managing the vast quantities of information created and captured in such systems is challenging. What is valuable? What might be valuable in the short and near terms? How do we capture records of this inappropriate use of such technology for negative purposes for future historians to understand society in 2011? What will future generations be interested in knowing, glad that we retained? Our constant challenge – appraisal. Will access be through secondary sources such as newspaper reports? Will it be courtesy of the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive? Will it be through storytelling, memory sharing passed on through the generations?
The following morning I was heartened to hear reports of the positive use of Facebook and Twitter – to galvanize people into cleaning up after the riots. Hundreds of people turned up in the affected areas of London armed with brooms to clear the streets. If the tweets etc. inciting riots are to be kept then hopefully the tweets mobilizing positive actions will be too. Only then will future generations gain a balanced assessment of the events. I suspect there is plenty of room for research here.
This issue of the journal has no articles on managing the information in social media applications per se but it does include several articles focusing on other technologies that records and information professionals are working with, namely, mobile devices, cloud computing and SharePoint.
Jan Askhoj and Professors Sugimoto and Nagamori of the Graduate School of Library, Information and Media Studies at the University of Tsukuba, Japan consider how records can be preserved in the cloud. Examining the OAIS model and concluding it does not fully integrate with the layered model of cloud computing, they propose a new layered model, using some of the OAIS concepts. It offers a way of representing how digital objects and metadata can be transferred from systems in which they were created to archival systems. It is good to see this type of academic research on the less technical aspects of cloud computing being published in the Records Management Journal and it is the first research article we have published on this topic.
The motivations for organizations to manage their records obviously vary – legislation and/or regulatory compliance are often drivers. Sari Mäkinen and Dr Pekka Henttonen, University of Tampere, Finland, say that whilst we can hypothesise that “an organization with a ‘natural’ motivation for records management controls records processes more thoroughly than an organization without a similar motivation”, how the organizational context affects records management is not fully understood. Hence, they studied this concept specifically in the context of mobile devices (e.g. laptops, mobile/smart phones) in three different organizational settings – a government agency, a university and a medium-sized IT enterprise. They compared the motivations of individuals with those enshrined in the ISO 15489 standard. Perhaps not surprisingly what users see as the motivations for managing records does not match, contradicts even, what professionals see as the motivations, as captured in the standard. The authors conclude that internal motivations are more important for users than we have hitherto understood; this is something with which I wholly concur, as a result of the AC+erm project and the work of one of my colleagues.
Gill Baker, Alexis Castillo-Soto and Emma Shears provide the journal’s first case study of the use of Microsoft SharePoint to support collaborative working. The Department for Education’s Information Workplace Platform is currently the only example of a large-scale implementation in UK Government. The authors share the rationale for selecting SharePoint, how it was implemented, how take-up of the system was encouraged and how information management is being made core to the Department rather than a back-office function. We would welcome more case studies of the use of SharePoint and other systems that share the lessons learned.
Dr Kurt Stanberry, University of Houston Downtown offers an attorney’s insight into the problems of implementing an electronic health record in the USA. This is a very topical subject in many countries, not least in the UK where the vision of an electronic patient record system appears to have been abandoned because it was too complex to achieve. The article will be of wide interest to those working in the health sector as well as anyone with a personal interest in how the information relating to their health will be managed confidentially and securely to achieve the aspirational benefits of easier access by appropriate health care personnel.
Whilst the focus of the final article in this issue, from Alistair Tough, Archivist of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, is not on technology, the issue of accountability, open government and record keeping are particularly challenging in the digital context. The core of his argument, based on analysis of the debates in published and unpublished literature, is that we need to challenge our current assumptions about record keeping and record keepers to ensure records of government are there to be retained.
Two very different and equally interesting resources are reviewed in this issue – the first on the ethical dilemmas of archival practice and the second a handbook for ISO 27011, the information security standard. Different yes but linked perhaps by the notion of risk and expertly reviewed.
I hope you enjoy the contents of this issue and look forward to receiving more submissions to the journal.
Halliday J. “London riots: how BlackBerry Messenger played a key role”, The Guardian, Monday 8 August 2011, available at: www.guardian.co.uk
Prime Minister’s 11 August speech. British Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons on disturbances in the UK. Foreign & Commonwealth Office web site, 15 August 2011, available at: http://ukintt.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=PressR&id=644340182#
AC+erm – “Accelerating positive change in electronic records management”, available at: www.northumbria.ac.uk/acerm; Elizabeth Lomas’ PhD study: “Continued communication, maximising the potential of organizational communications: the research and outputs of a co-operative inquiry”, available at: www.northumbria.ac.uk/sd/academic/ceis/re/isrc/phd/e_;lomas