David Nicholas spoke about the question of what happens when ‘information lite’ meets’ information on the go’. He has come to recognize some fundamental behaviours in the digital space. The ‘Google generation’ who are hitting universities now rely on their phones for information seeking which largely takes place in the social space. The phone has eaten the library, but unlike in the analogue world, it is hard to tell whose information you are reading. The Google generation view only one or two pages of a document and never move down to the second page of a Google results page. Short articles and abstracts are now the order of the day, and appear to get an endorphin rush from finding information not reading it. This ‘bouncing and skittering’ is coming to affect people’s brains.
Alison Diamond spoke about the use made of archives by teachers in Scotland. Virtually all access to archives is online. Only 4% of the population have visited archives in person. In Scotland, primary teachers make more use of archive materials, but they get these from school project boxes and not from direct research. Secondary teachers tend to search online for archives, but tend to use well-known and authoritative sites such as SCRAN and Education Scotland. They are interested in finding material for lesson plans and teaching resources, but have little interest in archive catalogues. Blockers include strict usage rules on school intranets and concerns about charging , authenticity or their ability to interpret resources. They don’t discriminate between museum objects and records. She urged archivists and museums to work together to rethink what we do and to attract you people into archives
William Merrin spoke about Unarchiving Social Media. He described the way in which human to human communication had been transformed by social media in the last 10 – 20 years. He described the growth of public access to information, starting with museums becoming public collections, the industrialization of the press and the growth of cinema and TV. Originally the internet was seen as part of the expansion of public information, but social media means that the public produce and consume information, the private sector provides the infrastructure. Data mining and analysis means that such information can be weaponized, for example in election campaigns. Governments can access social media information for security purposes. But how will this mass of social media be archived?
These radical changes are bound to have impacts on archives. First how can the huge volume of social media be captured? The attempts by the Library of Congress to archive Twitter do not appear to have gone too well so far and no institution has yet stepped up to archive other systems. Second, and more worrying: how will archives respond to the changing ways in which young people seek information. They are looking for easy access to material and not to complex access via catalogues and archives need to respond to this.