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    INF 389G Introduction to Electronic and Digital Records, Unique 27835 - Schedule, Fall 2018
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NOTE: This syllabus is definitely preliminary until the first class meets and may change slightly through the semester if new issues come up--so don't just print or download it and continue to refer to that version--instead, bookmark this page. URLs change constantly, so if you find a dead link please do both of the following two things:

1) Stick the URL into the Wayback Machine at and see if you can find it there; and

2) Let me know one way or the other: if you found it, the Wayback URL for it; or if you didn't find it, so I can do something about it.

August 30: Background, overview of the field

Reminder about ordering textbook: Jones and Teevan, Personal Information Management. See Text page.

Fill out questionnaire about educational, technical, and archival background (in class)

Discuss course and course assignments, including:

  • Class exercise assignment (30%) Start September 20
  • Personal digital archive management report (50%). Model Inventory available on Canvas. Note that if you begin thinking about this project from the beginning, you can make use of class discussions to explore and sharpen your thinking about your own records. Read this document for next time. Due November 29
  • Class participation (20%) Due every day

Topic: Overview of the field of digital recordkeeping--history and ideas of interest in a changing social and communication environment. Lecture-discussion. Be prepared to participate by sharing some of your own experiences with digital materials.

September 6: What is a digital record and how can I deal with it?

Exercise proposals discussed; protocol for preparation of Personal Information Management Plan discussed.

Topic: Definitions of "electronic and digital records" and the range of objects and environments that are implicated under this rubric. Discuss the archival view of digital records and the skills that seem to be required for coping with them. Students will be expected to have read the assignments and to be prepared to discuss them critically. For a start, read the readings and then prepare to discuss the questions below--which means: have an answer (or indeed another question) in mind and/or written down with your preparation notes for class.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) What do you consider the most valuable part of the archival perspective as outlined by Gilliland? Do you consider that any parts are now outdated, and if so, why?
2) How does your skillset fit with the New Skills inventory in general and as expanded in detail in the DigCCurr matrix? If you have questions about the matrix and the skills, please raise them. How might you update and add to your skills?


Anne J. Gilliland-Swetland, Enduring Paradigm, New Opportunities: The Value of the Archival Perspective in the Digital Environment (Washington: CLIR, 2000)

Richard Pearce-Moses and Susan E. Davis, "Knowledge and Skills Inventory," in New Skills for a Digital Era (2006), pp. 1-31, available at The proceedings of this conference are worth reading as a whole if and when you have time, not least because three of the case studies are from the UT iSchool.

Cal Lee, Matrix of digital curation knowledge and competencies, 2009. Available at BE SURE TO DRILL DOWN INTO THE DIMENSIONS!!

Joseph Kaye et al. To Have and to Hold: Exploring the Personal Archive. CHI 2006. Available on Canvas.

September 13: Official digital records and regulation by statute and computer code

Topic: How people use and work with electronic records/digital objects, including differences that may be introduced by the electronic medium. We will discuss the electronic environment at the state level and how it is literally legislated from scratch by computer code (and the implications of "net neutrality"), how real legislation deals with paper and digital records, and how individuals manage their own records. Review the MDAH digital archives project final report and the TERM email project and its "failure". How "record" and "evidence" are constituted in the digital world and how hard it is to do this.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) What digital records should governments keep? Think of this in terms of an issue that interests you (Social Security, taxes, passports, gun licenses, etc.) and find out what the government of Texas actually requires for our discussion.
2) How do the realities of computer technology make it possible (or not) to keep digital records? You might work through this by asking what problems NARA has had in developing a digital archive (see links in the last reading). If you are interested in more detail about NARA's long struggle with e-records, see Bruce Ambacher (ed.), Thirty Years of Electronic Records.


Lawrence Lessig, Code and other Laws of Cyberspace, Part 1 (1999). Available on Canvas in two files, 1.1 and 1.2 , under Files. This is version 1, which Lessig refers to now as an "ancient text"; the revised version, revised via wiki, can be found as a free download or wiki at (you can add your own remix). If Lessig's work on how the digital environment changes the impact and meaning of traditional legal frameworks interests you, succeeding books include The Future of Ideas, Free Culture, and Remix.

Uniform Electronic Transactions Act summary: this act, passed in 1999, first made digital records officially acceptable in legal transactions and therefore changed everything for governments. Find a short general summary at:

"Electronic Records standards and procedures," from TSLAC, revised 2005:  Also read the Texas public records statutes at Government Code, chapters 441.180-197 (Texas State Library and management of records), 551.021-023 (Open meetings records), 552 (Public Information law: especially subsections 101-136 listing exceptions and 272 on access to electronic records): For a list of all the national and international standards that pertain to the official handling of digital records, see a listing here (alas removed from the DIR site in 2006 and surviving only on the Internet Archive):

Mississippi Department of Archives and History Electronic Records Project (1999). Available on Canvas.

Marlan Green, Sue Soy, Stan Gunn, Patricia Galloway. Coming to TERM: Designing the Texas Email Repository Model. D-Lib Magazine, September 2002. At

State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI; sponsored by Council of State Archivists): This project began in 2011 and is designed to run indefinitely with different aspects of the project, since CoSA has decided that digital recordkeeping is a must for all state governments. Browse this page to see what CoSA has focused on.

If you have time, you may wish to read: National Research Council, Building an Electronic Records Archive at the national Archives and Records Administration: Recommendations for a Long-Term Strategy (2005). This was an attempt to bring the digital project at NARA up to speed after long delay. It's available freely downloadable from here:

September 20: Personal digital information and regulation by computer code

Protocol for preparation of Personal Digital Archiving Plan discussed.

Topic: Non-official born-digital (and born-again-digital) objects and how they are managed and preserved by you. Discuss digital personal records, with a focus on the student project to understand one's own digital belongings and manage a personal archive.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) How do the digital tools a person personally uses constrain what they create and what they can personally keep?
2) Is it possible and/or desirable to know and manage the full range of digital objects that a person presently creates? Think about an example or two and why it might be complicated to do so.
3) Is it possible and/or desirable to find out and understand how one's identity is represented on the Internet? How is this a new problem?
4) Should archivists or commercial vendors assist ordinary people to manage their digital belongings? Think of arguments in favor of each alternative..


Personal Information Management, ed. William Jones and Jaime Teevan (hereafter cited as PIM), pp. 3-75, chapters 1-4 will begin our investigation of how people really keep digital records, regardless of statutes. This is an easy read; think about your own practices as you read it.

Gabriela Redwine (a former student). Personal Digital Archiving, DPC Technology Watch Report 15-01, December 2015. Read at least pages 1-18, but look at the case studies if you have time. Available at

Simson Garfinkel and David Cox, "Finding and Archiving the Internet Footprint" (2009)--that is, YOUR Internet footprint:

Clive Thompson, "A Head for Detail," Fast Company 110 (November 2006): This essay is an entertaining account of Gordon Bell's "life-logging" experiment about which more anon.

September 27: Record granularity and metadata

Use Case Assignments made and discussed

Topic: Implications for records creators, archives, and users of record-level description and the generation of metadata to provide it. Discuss the issue of descriptive granularity and review various metadata schemes. Investigate in class metadata created by programs.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) How does the need for bitstream-level metadata contradict or make problematic the adoption of minimal processing (aka MPLP) standards in an archive? Is there a solution to this contradiction?
2) What kinds of metadata are needed for keeping your own records? How does this differ (if it does) from the kinds needed for archival collections? For digital library collections?
3) Give/find an example of metadata among your own digital files.


David Bearman, "Item Level Control and Electronic Recordkeeping" available on Canvas. This is a classic 1996 article that makes a very important point while summarizing the Pittsburgh project; the entire Pittsburgh project website, by the way, had not been archived away from its active location and was lost by a site remodel for the department, but has been recovered and restored; there is a link to it on the Resources page together with the story of how it was recovered.

Geoffrey Yeo. Contexts, Original Orders, and Item-Level Orientation: Responding Creatively to Users' Needs and Technological Change. Journal of Archival Organization 12(3-4): 170-85. Available on Canvas

Dublin Core metadata set current version (2011); review this originally resource-discovery oriented metadata set and also investigate how it is expanded as Qualified Dublin Core (the "terms namespace") at

Review the work being done for their own internal consistency by the Library of Congress Metadata for Digital Content Working Group here: See also the Master Metadata List, available on Canvas.

Review work being done on the PREMIS 3.0 metadata set for digital preservation and read the first 30 pages of this document:

Investigate the METS metadata set for packaging digital objects and be prepared to discuss the parts of a METS document by reading the "METS Overview and Tutorial" (2011):

October 4: Passive vs active systems for managing desktop records

Topic: Records Management Applications (RMAs) versus careful and systematic exploitation of existing software. Review the Department of Defense 5015.2 EDMS-RM model and commercial implementations of 5015.2-compliant RMAs, practical efforts at implementation in Texas, Kansas, and Mississippi, automated vs creator-assigned classification, Microsoft's nascent efforts to invade this profit space using features of its widely-used integrated business system SharePoint, and a suggestion on why much of this is doomed to failure without further study of how people manage their "own" records.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) How might you be likely to be subjected to a digital records management application at work? If you have had such an experience, be prepared to tell us about it.
2) How detailed must a records management application be in order to actually manage records, all records? What does the STD 5015.2 suggest that it must cover? Are these expectations realistic?
3) Would you consider outsourcing your entire personal recordkeeping to Google or another cloud host? How would you set up such a thing, and what would you want to consider?
4) What would you choose, Save Everything? Structure Everything? Unify Everything? Search Everything?


PIM, pp. 90-189, chapters 6-10 (assignments are: Save Everything, Alyssa Anderson; Structure Everything, Ginny Barnes; Unify Everything, Linna Dean; Search Everything, Natalie Jones; Everything through Email, Matthew Moore).

DoD 5015.02 specifications (latest version, dated 2007). This is a big document, but I want you to look through it carefully so you can both see the level of detail that a government standard includes and understand what the federal standard proposes to be able to manage:

Jennifer Seymour. The Modern Records Management Program: An Overview of Electronic Records Management Standards. Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology, December/January 2017.

And here is a report of huge amounts of DoD data erased during the wars in the Middle East from operational laptops:

NARA, Continuing Study of Federal Agency Recordkeeping Technologies (2008), a report from NARA on how well the application of the standard outlined in STD 5015.2 is going in federal agencies (alas, not well):

Patricia Galloway, "Big Buckets or Big Ideas: Classification vs Innovation on the Enterprise 2.0 Desktop," (2008). This paper outlines the so-called "Big Buckets" approach to making desktop records management easier to use and questions its blanket usefulness for records that may be among the most important to keep (because creative), available here:

Barry Wheeler, "Personal Archiving--Year End Boot Camp," 1/20/2012 entry about real-life personal digital archiving in the Library of Congress-sponsored blog The Signal: Digital Preservation, by a Digital Projects Coordinator at the LoC:

October 11: Centralized vs distributed models: custodianship

Exercise presentation 1: Natalie Jones: Getting out of Facebook

Topic: Where digital records should be archived and by whom. Discuss the issue of traditional archival custodianship, the challenge of postcustodial models, and the emergence of best practice in the form of the OAIS repository model.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) Can digital archives be "a place"?
2) Should there be a distinction between public and private records?
3) Should public records preservation be outsourced? Why or why not?
4) What would the individual person's point of view be on custodianship? What cloud locations might individuals use?


Luciana Duranti, "Archives as a Place,"Archives and Manuscripts 24(2): 242-255 (1996). Available on Canvas.

Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist. Version 1.0, February 2007. At

Also look at other sources for audits from the Digital Curation Centre:

October 18: Maintaining the archival bond: Provenance and context

Exercise presentation 2: Linna Dean: Downloading text messages

Topic: Provenance and how to maintain it. Discuss what provenance is and how provenance can be provided for digital records; discuss the complexities of multiple or joint provenance issues and changes/accumulation of provenantial history over time.

Questions to consider for discussion:
1) How can you establish the provenance for records that you create? Experiment with this: just look at a file in one of your directories and then see what properties you can see about it (in Windows you'll at least be able to see stuff like when it was created); now open it in your word processor and look at properties again--you should see some additional information. Where is this information coming from? How accurate is it?
2) Go back to the 5015.02 requirements and the discussion we had around it; how does the 5015.2 STD propose to build in maintenance of provenance?


David Bearman and Richard Lytle, "The Power of the Principle of Provenance," from American Archival Studies: Readings in Theory and Practice, 2000, 345-360, available on Canvas.

Tom Nesmith, "Principle of Provenance," in Encyclopedia of Archival Science, ed. Luciana Duranti and Patricia Franks, 284-288. Available on Canvas.

October 25: Permanence: media, formats, migration, emulation

Exercise presentation 3: Matthew Moore: Rescuing files from old computer(s)

Topic: How to preserve digital objects over time. We'll discuss two important aspects: what "digital preservation" means and what it is we are trying to preserve.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) Considering your personal records, what would you think of as "good enough" preservation for text? What about for photographs? (You can also refer to readings we have already discussed.)
2) What are the major obstacles that you have yourself seen to keeping digital objects that you have created over time?


Caroline Arms and Carl Fleischhauer, Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections (updated 2017):
Read at least Introduction, Sustainability Factors, then browse Format Descriptions for the formats that most interest you in your collection.

Jeff Rothenberg, "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information," (1999) available at: This is the serious advocacy piece about archival emulation and Rothenberg has continued to support it until emulation has become more and more important. He spoke more about it in terms of "chained emulation" in Preservation Of The Times, The Information Management Journal, March/April 2002, available on Canvas.

Rothenberg has tried to preserve his writings on but he lacked control of the sites where one is directed to go--it's a lesson for all of us.

Phil Mellor, Paul Wheatley, and Derek Sergeant, "Migration on Request, a Practical Technique for Preservation" in Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Springer, 2002), 516-526. This piece shows the simple argument for why it is crazy to use the chain-of-interpreters form of migration. Available at

November 1: Guaranteeing authenticity: security vs access

Exercise presentation 4: Ginny Barnes: Inventorying "digital presence"

Topic: Authenticity vs access. Discuss the requirements of security for the preservation of digital records.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) How can you make sure that a digital object has not been changed? How likely is it that visual inspection of any kind would be adequate?
2) What is an "authentic" digital object? How can a digital object be more or less authentic? Is this a black-and-white issue?


Peter Hirtle, "Archival Authenticity in a Digital Age," Authenticity in a Digital Environment (Washington: CLIR, 2000), 8-23; available at: The whole report is well worth reading for an overview, since the issues have not changed.

InterPARES: This is the final report, which you will find at: You should read both Part I and Appendix 2.

For information on how to guarantee authenticity in a digital file, see this file and listen to the video:

William Odom et al. Lost in Translation: Understanding the Possession of Digital Things in the Cloud. CHI 2012. Available on Canvas.

November 8: Dealing with ownership: Gating vs sharing

Exercise presentation 5: Alyssa Anderson: Music listening via

Topic: Discussion of intellectual property issues in providing access to digital records. Also look at the issues raised by information that others own (including public information) available all over the Web for people to aggregate and sell.

Questions toprepare for discussion:
1) It's pretty easy to copy a digital object and use it for anything you want. For example, what do you think about music sharing and the reaction of the music industry?
2) And have you ever heard the expression "Information wants to be free"? What does that mean? How expensive is it to reproduce digital information?
3) Looking at the American copyright law document's listing of enactments, notice how new technologies affect the enactment of new law.
4) If you had written something of which you were very proud and wanted to share it with others, which of the Creative Commons licenses might you choose to protect it? Why did you choose it?
5) What might be the status of personally significant records/information/data that you don't physically control?


Lessig, The Future of Ideas, Chapter 6, "Commons Lessons," available on Canvas; and look at the Creative Commons website: familiarize yourself with what a CC license is and the kinds of them there can be.

Current U.S. copyright law, Circular 92: This is a huge document., Look at the "statutory enactments" listed in the preface and then examine the appendices referring to the major versions including 1976 and following in the appendices.

Peter Suber, "Open Access Overview" (2004). Suber is an expert on Open Access.

World Economic Forum (the folks from Davos), Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class (2011), is just one example of how interested others might be in your personal data (and have been for eight years), available here:

If you own a home, look it up by typing your address into Google and then see what some of the real estate sites know about you from public databases. If not, look yourself up on Spokeo.

November 15: Genres of digital records and their management

Topic: Genres of digital records that lack paper analogs and their characteristics and problems. Review of desktop applications output, email, SMS/IM, websites/blogs/wikis, databases, still images, audio and video, etc. Note that many of these genres, especially (but not exclusively) when they are owned by individuals, are increasingly migrating into the cloud or never lived anywhere else.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) Review these categories of digital objects in terms of your own personal information plan: which of these do you have? Where are they? What do they mean to you?
2) How important are format standards here? What are format standards for? Do you know what the formats of all of your nontext holdings are?

Readings: General overview for records management:

Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, from ARMA. Available on Canvas.

Recordkeeping System Functional Requirements, from TSLAC. Available on Canvas.

Building a National Strategy for Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving (CLIR, April 2002) provides a series of short summaries of the problems of different genres and media:

Melody Condron. Archiving Social Media, in Brianna H. Marshall (ed.), The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving (ALA: 2018), 19-32. Available on Canvas.

Sara Day Thomson. Preserving Social Media. DPC Technology Watch Report 16-01 February 2016. https://www/

Kristina M. Spurgin. "Three Backups is a Minimum": A First Look at the Norms and Practices in the Digital Photo Collections of Serious Photographers. In Cal Lee (ed.), I, Digital (SAA, 2011): 151-201. Available on Canvas: this essay is an example of the seriousness of every step.

November 29: Access and markup: finding aids, internal markup, metadata, and search

Topic: Markup: what it is and what kinds are most important. Discuss markup as a resource discovery aid and especially the level of granularity of markup.

Questions to prepare for discussion:
1) How is it useful to embed tags into text? What kind of embedded tags do you use every day?
2) How are tags used on webpages to assist in search?
3) How is EAD markup related to digital objects kept in archives?
4) Will conventional finding aids to archival collections become obsolete? Or only obsolete for some kinds of object? What does the literature tell us about how easy (or not) they are to use for different audiences?
5) What kind of value added does an archivist bring to a fonds by creating an archival finding aid? Can you imagine an automated finding aid that recognizes images?


Anne Gilliland-Swetland, "Popularizing the Finding Aid: Exploiting the EAD to Enhance Online Discovery and Retrieval in Archival Information Systems by Diverse User Groups," in Pitti and Duff (eds.), Encoded Archival Description on the Internet, 199-225 (2001). Available on Canvas.

Ian Witten, "Text Mining," in Practical Handbook of Internet Computing, 2005, ed. M.P. Singh, pp. 14-22:

Marieke Guy and Emma Tonkin, "Folksonomies: Tidying up tags?," D-Lib 12(1), January 2006.

Mary Flanagan and Peter Carini, "How Games can Help Us Access and Understand Archival Images," American Archivist 75 (Fall/Winter 2012), 514-537. Online via PCL journals.

Personal Digital Records Management Plan DUE

December 6: Personal Digital Preservation Project presentations

Topic: Student teams will present their personal digital management projects to the class and the class will offer comparative discussions.