Doing Right Online: Archivists Shape an Ethics for the Digital Age | Perspectives

A crowd of community members gather outside the Governor’s Residence in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the 2 a.m. hour on July 7, 2016, following the police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a St. Anthony Police officer.

Kritika Agarwal for Perspectives Online (with quotes from Bergis Jules of #DocNowCommunity):


“Instead of using an existing digital archival system and then working within its constraints, DocNow is letting ethical concerns drive its creation of technology. It isn’t alone. An increasing number of archivists and scholars are now using digital tools and technology to confront ethical issues that have historically plagued collection and archiving practices. At the forefront of these efforts are archivists working with indigenous peoples and collections. As Kim Christen Withey (Washington State Univ.) put it in a recent panel discussion at the Library of Congress, “The history of collection is the history of colonialism.” Indigenous peoples rarely hold copyright to materials related to their cultural or ancestral heritage held at libraries and archives around the world, and as Caswell explains, many of these records “were created without the consent of the indigenous communities” and “contain sacred information that was never meant to be distributed on a wider basis.” In response, many libraries, archives, and museums are not only rethinking the widely accepted ethos of “open access” in the archival world; they are also moving to a collaborative approach, working with indigenous communities to obtain permissions and to gather contextual information or create metadata….”

“The stakes are undoubtedly high. In September 2016, the Baltimore Sun reported that its police force had used the service Geofeedia, which analyzes social media information “to monitor protests, parades, and holiday celebrations.” In October, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report noting that the use of such software was more widespread than previously thought. Ensuring that archivists and historians do not become complicit in the marginalization of vulnerable populations because of their online practices is certainly an ethical conversation worth having.”

Read it all: Doing Right Online: Archivists Shape an Ethics for the Digital Age


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