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Monday, September 13, 2010

Of archiving and tragedy

I've been reading up on archiving for my job, and I have two observations about the relevant literature.

First, no matter how convoluted and unclear a writer I am, archivists, or at least the ones whose works I've read so far, are much, much worse. It's a combination of bureaucratic office-speak (in formal writing, "impact" should not be transitive verb!) and abstruse academic verbiage.

Second, there appears to be an inherent tragedy in what I understand to be (and what the books and articles I'm reading tell me is) the dual mission of archives: to preserve sources in perpetuity and to ensure access. It seems to me that it's almost impossible to do either and that it's impossible to do both.

Sources deteriorate, eventually, in a hundred years or a thousand years or 10,000 years, they will pass away and be forgotten. The sun also rises..... It would be the height--or at least one of the many heights--of hubris to claim that the library in which I currently have my graduate assistantship will survive over the centuries.

Every time a source is used, it is damaged, however imperceptibly. We can do a lot to forestall the damage. We can put documents in protective plastic coating, or we can photocopy "dummy documents" that patrons can consult instead of the originals. But eventually the plastic will wear out or break and have to be replaced, or the dummy document will wear down and another one will have to be made.

I'm not sure how true this is of digital collections, especially because I'm ignorant of how electronic files actually work. But I have trouble believing that the information technology of today will be compatible with that of tomorrow, or that they don't have their own elements of "wear and tear."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My reservations about three libertarianish policy preferences

There are three policy preferences that, I imagine, libertarians tend to support and that I have reservations about. (So in other words, the contents of this blog post are more or less reflected in its title.) They are free trade, an "open borders" immigration policy, and what I call a "robust liberty of contract regime." Before I go further and define what I mean by these terms and my reservations, I'll add the following caveats: some non-libertarians probably support some or all of these policy preferences; I imagine some libertarians might oppose all, or at least some, of these policy preferences; I call them "libertarian" 1) because I've noticed that posters on libertarian-oriented blogs tend to advocate such policy preferences and 2) because they seem to me to be very consistent with the what I understand to be the fundamental assumptions or preferences of libertarianism (a preference for individual "liberty" as free as possible from state coercion and a preference for "markets" provided that "market failures" be managed or curtailed).