Angela Okune Annotations

How does this innovation regenerate STS?

Saturday, July 27, 2019 - 6:06pm

AO: This brief statement from the workshop summary report highlights an important message that I think should/could regenerate STS to better grapple with and address the geopolitics of research and research infrastructures. How might, in spite of democratizing, radical or inclusive agendas, movements like Open Access, Open Data, Open Science be in fact re-entrenching existing inequalities in knowledge production? As we attempt to develop and sustain civic infrastructures including archives - digital and physical - for various publics, what do we need to pay attention to?

It was difficult to avoid the fact that even (or particularly) in the age of digital scholarship and global research, the question of uneven access to archives due to uneven research budgets will not go away.

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What geographic and temporal contexts characterize this STS innovation?

Saturday, July 27, 2019 - 5:52pm

AO: This excerpt from the workshop summary report highlights some of the geo-politics behind "opening up" archives once they are made digital. How are users vetted and approved and who is able to access the materials?

Digitisation is a technique of preservation as much as a mode of dissemination. But once digitised, archives are put under pressure – often by foreign researchers – to make documents available online. We discussed the practical challenges facing archives in the era of digitisation: If a national archive would normally be accessible to approved researchers for a fee, should it not also be digitised and made available online? But how would researchers be approved through an online system? And how would an online system be able to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens? “Outside” expertise and foreign funding bodies (such as the EU, UNESCO and the British Library) often end up playing a crucial but, as Marja Hinfelaar pointed out, not unproblematic, role in collecting, preserving, and digitising archival material. 

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What (social, institutional, political etc.) infrastructures have sustained this STS innovation?

Saturday, July 27, 2019 - 5:49pm

AO: While it may seem self-evident, this excerpt from the workshop summary report underlines the continued importance of physical buildings to protect archival material. Especially at a time when digitizing has become the focus of archival and library science, the continued maintainance of physical spaces and material culture is highlighted here. Workshop participants also raised the fact that processes for maintaining and archiving the physical artifacts are better understood and established than for maintaining and archiving born-digital materials.

Physical buildings and storage conditions matter greatly when it comes to protecting archive material. Indeed, the 1965 Act of Parliament that established the Kenya National archives and Documentation Service, Frances Mwangi informed us, gave it responsibility “for proper housing, control and preservation of all public records and public archives.” 

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What frameworks have been mobilized to articulate this STS innovation?

Saturday, July 27, 2019 - 5:45pm

AO: This excerpt from a workshop summary report outlines the different meanings surrounding the concept of a post-colonial archive.

An archive could be “post-colonial” because it contains material from the post-Independence period. In our first round of discussions it was noted that it was often the case that this material, i.e. material of relatively recent origin, is more at risk of going missing or not being stored appropriately than the older material from the colonial and pre-colonial periods. This raised the question: how to preserve material with a very recent origin, in particular documents that are “born digital” such as email correspondence? But the “post-colonial” might equally denote the social, economic and political structures in which repositories of historical material are embedded. From Frances Mwangi of the Kenya National Archives, we heard of the managed destruction of sensitive colonial era files by the British government and the “migration” of others to the “secret” Foreign Office repository at Hanslope Park. We also discussed how structures produced and relationships forged during the colonial period endure and how the post-colonial archives seeking to develop the skills of its staff or enhance its technological capacities manage their engagement with funding bodies and donors, such as the British Library and UNESCO, many of whom are based in former colonial metropoles. 

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