The technological and cultural changes brought about by the advancement of the Web have, on numerous occasions, required co-ordinated interdisciplinary work. 0ne of the intended aims of the JISC-PoWR project is to help to bring together the differing perspectives of information professionals such records managers and Web managers in the context of the preservation of Web resource – and there are probably at least four sets of expertise involved: Web content creation (as perceived by Web authors), Web content management from a technical perspective (as perceived by those who choose or configure the underlying software), records and/or information management and digital preservation. So there’s the bringing together of intellectual perspectives: (What content needs to be preserved? How long for? Who is responsible?) and there’s the technical perspectives, assuming that the above questions come up with anything that needs preserving (How do we do it ? Are site-level tools more appropriate than national services? Does CMS X make preservation easier or harder than CMS Y? Is a more accessible site also a more preservable one? Are there configuration choices that affect preservation without (significantly) affecting other aspects of management?)
Within the JISC-PoWR team there have been a number of interesting discussions that have highlighted how differently the different players see Web preservation. To quote Ed Pinsent:
“The fundamental thing here is bringing together two sets of information professionals from differing backgrounds who, in many cases, don’t tend to speak to each other. Many records managers and archivists are, quite simply, afraid of IT and are content to let it remain a mystery. Conversely, it is quite possible to work in an IT career path in any organisation (not just HE/FE) and never be troubled by retention or preservation issues of any sort. “
The cliched view might regard Web managers as concerning themselves primarily with the day to day running of an organisation’s Web site, with preservation as an afterthought, and records managers focussing mainly on the preservation of resources and failing to understand some of the technical challenges presented. And although this may be a superficial description of the complexitities of they ways in which institutions go about the management of the digital resources, perhaps like many cliches, there could be an element of truth in such views.
Yet it is likely that Web preservation can be seen as important to the various parties; indeed one of the aims of the JISC-PoWR project is to highlight the importance of Web preservation in order to help institutions give a greater priority and allocate additional resources to this area. To quote Kevin Ashley:
“…this certainly brings out the benefits of our two groups working together on this: by identifying what each of us finds difficult to understand about the other’s perspective on the world, we can work out how to help others bridge the same gulf of understanding.”
The interdisciplinary approach that is needed requires a commitment to communicating and exchanging skills. Do you have any ideas on how this can be achieved? The JISC-PoWR project is interested in hearing how institutions are seeking to engage the different players in working together on a Web resource preservation strategy. If you have any accounts you can share then please contact us or submit a case study.