Vested Authorities, Emergent Brokers and User Archivists: Power and legitimacy in information provision.

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The past decades changed the way we deal with archives and archival materials. Archives digitized their inventories and part of their collections but they were joined by many other parties who published archival collections and archive-worthy materials on the web. The information world is in continuous flux, and the developments have made clear that archives and libraries have lost much of their position as the vested authorities of information access. They are challenged by technological parties and citizen science that have as yet not established themselves in definitive positions as information brokers. We propose to analyze the field in terms of information authority, a composite of many different aspects that all contribute to its importance, availability and use.
In this article we first explore the issue of (information) authority in the digital realm, and explain why we choose for a conflict metaphor to analyse the different types of partners in the information ecosystem. Digital archives call for cooperation and openness as information is ‘everywhere’, but this is hard to realize as it requires translating intentions into technical means. To maintain their position of authority, archives adopt standards and regulations. We argue that openness is the key, but hard to organize with the existing standards because they are used in monolithic ways that make it hard to combine information. Combining asks for methods from established scholarly and archival disciplines as well as from technology. Furthermore, sharing and cooperation require a harmonization of contexts: the different contexts in which information is created and organized need to be aligned to understand how collections can be combined across different dimensions. This calls for providing (structured) metadata that define the scope of a collection, to allow one to determine whether combining information is useful.
At the moment the state of affairs is in flux and there is no fixed methodology. In the last part we explore ways to facilitate and evaluate interdisciplinary communication and collaboration on methodology in order to address the above mentioned challenges of producing quality, in all realms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number48
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2022


  • Analytic tools to assist research on collections or artefacts , Metadata, classification schema, ontologies and semantic processing for CH, multimedia repositories


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