Searching for 2.0-related sessions at the SAA Annual Meeting

When I exchanged emails with a cynical friend of the blog about this post, he/she wrote:

I love that you are still holding out hope for the 2.0 content.  This is SAA; its members had to be brought kicking and screaming to the idea that data was record material, and that electronic records posed issues that needed to be addressed. Now, that I have expressed my cynicism on the subject, I will move on.

Yes, I recently scoured the program for this year’s SAA Annual Meeting looking for sessions that might be relevant for someone interested in how archives are using web 2.0 tools. Based on the information in the program, I found two clearly relevant sessions–and one of those is only one graduate student paper out of three. If that’s really it, I’ll be very disappointed and I think other attendees should be too. But let’s take a closer look at the program . . .

First time slot, sessions 101-110:

Second time slot, sessions 201-210:

Third time slot, sessions 301-310:

  • In session 308, the Graduate Student Paper Session, Eric Fritzler will discuss “The Use of Folksonomies in Archives: Democratization of Description and Overcoming the Difficulties Associated with Social-Tagging”–that’s a mouthful of a title, but probably of interest to many of you, and the only other clearly 2.0-related content in the program.
  • You might also want to consider session 304, “Visual R/Evolution in the Archive: Complicating the Picture ,” again, it’s a guess, but I think that Joanna Sassoon’s paper on “Rethinking Online Access and Professional Purpose in the Digital Age” sounds like it might touch on 2.0 topics. But it’s just a guess based on the title.

Fourth time slot, sessions 401-410:

  • I found no sessions that seemed to have any possibility of content related to web 2.0.

Fifth times slot, sessions 501-510:

  • There are three possibilities in this time block (which starts at 8 am the day after the all-attendee reception, so I have a feeling many people may be sleeping in any way). But, for those of you who are up and about . . . In session 503 (The Power of the Internet and Self-Mediated Reference) I think the speaker from LOC might be talking about their chat-based reference service. If that’s true, then this might be interesting. In session 506 (The Online Archive of California Interface Redesign), I suspect that we might hear about the influences of 2.0-enabled sites on user expectations, and so see how some of this influenced the redesign–but I’m guessing. In session 508 (Introducing High School Students to the Archives Profession) I hear there might be a mention of how they used a wiki to coordinate their work, but that’s probably about it.

Sixth time slot, sessions 601-610:

[Update: Jeanne wrote in the comments: “After the Revolution: Unleashing the Power of EAD (Session 602). I know we don’t say Web 2.0 anywhere, but I do know that we will be talking about innovative methods of presenting and promoting interaction with finding aids online, both for individuals and communities. Take a look here for my summary of our session from back in January.  Also see the abstract posted on the SAA page for Max’s presentation ‘Finding Aids for the 21st Century: The Next Evolution.’ ]

Seventh time slot, sessions 701-710

[Update: Merrilee wrote in the comments that the EAD @10 symposium should also address 2.0 issues as well. If you’re going to be around on Sunday, there’s more information here on the wiki. ]

How many times did I use the word “guess” so far? Considering how much money conference goers (and their institutions) will have invested in attending this meeting, I think it’s rather disappointing that the best someone with my interests can do is guess at what sessions will be relevant. I think I checked all these sessions’ pages on the SAA site to see if the speakers had posted abstracts or additional information, and I don’t believe any of them had. We all understand that there are limits to the size of the descriptions that can appear in the printed program, but the online environment offers the possibility of providing all the relevant information you want–but people have to be willing to post it.

Now, to save you from having a post a comment stating the obvious, a slate of sessions can’t be everything to everyone. The Program Committee does its best to put together a diverse program around the central theme(s) that it thinks will have the broadest possible appeal and still provide a variety of session topics. You could probably do a similar exercise around whatever topic interests you and come up with a long list of sessions (take a look at the Possible Paths Through the Program on the wiki, for example). But still, for someone looking for inspiration and examples of how to use web 2.0 tools in their archives, this looks to be a remarkably slim offering. Or do you see the glass as half full–that things 2.0 have become so commonplace that they are fully integrated into our practices and so don’t need any special mention in the program? Should I be more optimistic and assume that all these sessions will have relevant content?

I, like my friend, am a bit more pessimistic. All the more reason to appreciate that the Manuscript Repositories Section is devoting part of their meeting to a panel discussion of using 2.0–highlight that in your programs! And if you know anything about the sessions above and can help me (and others) make a decision, share what you know!

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16 thoughts on “Searching for 2.0-related sessions at the SAA Annual Meeting”

  1. Does not surprise me one bit. They said the older archivists would be retiring soon, but they said that seven years ago and it still has not happend. I do not think we will see an increase in technical discussions until the ruling guard of SAA moves on into retirement and those of us who grew up with technology and use it as if it is a part of our very beings come into power.

    Yes, I am cynical, too, but realistic – the real program shows only two real Web 2.0 discussions. That is realistic in my book.

  2. I would like to put a bid in for the session in which I am presenting: After the Revolution: Unleashing the Power of EAD (Session 602). I know we don’t say Web 2.0 anywhere, but I do know that we will be talking about innovative methods of presenting and promoting interaction with finding aids online, both for individuals and communities.

    Take a look here for my summary of our session from back in January:
    Also see the abstract posted on the SAA page for Max’s presentation ‘Finding Aids for the 21st Century: The Next Evolution’:

  3. Thanks, Jeanne, I’ll update the original post accordingly.

    And readers might also want to check out this related post:

    ADR has a point regarding the attention archivists pay to records being created by 2.0 technologies, but I still think they have been slow to have meaningful discussions about using them for outreach and reference purposes. As usual, the library community is about 5 to 7 years ahead of us. Personally, I do not think it’s acceptable to just say “we’re slow” and leave it at that. What are we, those turtles on the Comcast commercials?

    Just to clarify, I think many archivists are out there exploring and using these tools. What is not happening is that these practitioner experiences are part of the professional discourse.

  4. Maybe I take a particularly optimistic view of this, but I think “Web 2.0” is a buzzword (or buzzterm?) that gets submerged as more of this becomes operationalized. If blogs, wikis, Flickr, social networking becomes part of our day-to-day lives, who bothers to label it anymore?

    It’s outside of the regular program, but I’d like to call attention to the EAD @ 10 symposium, and particularly to the “into the future” panel discussions that comprise the entire second half of the day. No, “Web 2.0” isn’t in the description of any of the questions that the panels will be addressing, but it’s in there. Some of the questions that will be addressed include:

    “Will some aspects of descriptions (names, places, subject terms, etc.) become networked? If so, what will be in the impact on archival description. Would networked elements of description allow for some automatic identification of terms, rather than implicit markup?”

    “It can be argued that EAD has changed archival descriptive practice. What standards will change our practices going forward?”

    “It can be argued that technology (specifically, the advent of the web) has changed our approach towards archival descriptive practice. What new technologies will change our practice going forward?”

    Maybe some of this even skews towards Web 3.0 (if you think out to a more semantic Web), but I think this session and the related discussion have the potential to be quite 2.0ish. I hope many ArchivesNext readers will consider registering and shaping the conversation.

    You can see (and add to!) the whole list of questions at the SAA Wiki.

  5. Also not a traditional session, but I am presenting a poster with a colleague about a Web 2.0-ish effort we’ve been making to connect to one of our user groups. The poster is entitled “CBI and CDC: Using Technology for Clientele Outreach,” and I expect (hope!) we’ll get into some good discussions about social networking/metadata/community involvement.

    It’s based on this experimental Google Site we created:

    Just so you’re aware, the official times for poster presentations are Thursday, 3:30-4:00, and Friday, 2:00-2:30, but the poster will be up all day both of those days.

  6. The SAA Research Forum ( has several presentations and posters covering Web 2.0 topics (including ours: Using Socialbookmarking Sites for Outreach and Publicity: So join the Research Forum on Tuesday, August 26, from 9:00 am till 5:00 pm.

    I also would like to mention that I set up and moderated the wiki for the San Francisco Host Committee that was used very successfully for collaborating on diverse topics and sharing the information between the members and with SAA.

  7. Thanks, everyone for pointing out these other events! Keep them coming in–and I’d love to hear about more sessions that people interested in 2.0 tools might want to attend.

    I don’t know, Merrilee–I don’t think it’s that these tools are so well integrated that there’s no point in mentioning them. I think they’re still enough of a novelty for most archives that it’s worth highlighting their use. And I wasn’t just looking for phrase “web 2.0” in the program–I was looking for any hint that there might be relevant content. But, that said, I did list in the post any session that I thought, based on the topic, might talk about using 2.0 tools. As I said, I really wish more speakers had put up abstracts so that we would have a better idea what each person would talk about. The little blurbs in the program really don’t give you much detail.

    And, Polina, was the wiki used by the Host Committee just used to communicate internally and with the SAA office?

  8. The Host Committee Wiki was “by invitation only” for members of the committee to share ideas, compile info about local attractions, transportation, etc., post articles and photographs. It’s a great tool for collaborative projects, as several people can work simultaneously on the same topic and there is not need for numerous e-mail, attachments, and meetings. After we finalized the information on the wiki, the invitation was sent to SAA that it able to easily access it at anytime. The info we worked on can be found on the official conference website/program. I would highly recommend this tool for the next Host Committee.

  9. I’m with Merrilee or at least in the sense that that is how it SHOULD be. 2.0 is JUST a tool not an end unto itself and should be integrated. I thought that is what this entry was doing–pointing out what sessions may have 2.0 as part of their discussion, recognizing that 2.0 is just a facet of our everyday work and has a role in many, if not all, of the domains of archivy be it A&D, RAO, advocacy, continuing education, etc.

    As long as the discussion is focused on 2.0 as subject and not on the issues and challenges that it can be used to assist, integrating it into the archivist’s daily needs, you’re going to have parts of the community simply dismissing it as a fad. Those who’ve been around have spent plenty of time on the bleeding edge (hell, it is painful there) or we would still be doing things on little, handwritten, 3×5 cards. It’s not about old folks being Luddites and needing to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. They’ve learned that a tool is only as valuable as the assistance it provides. Or they’ve learned to let others do some of the bleeding. They’ve learned that 2.0 is sometimes simply a new label for a slightly different (and yes, easier) way of doing something that they’ve been doing (we need interpreters here). They’ve learned to adopt the useful stuff and integrate it into their work without bothering with trendy labels.

    BTW, I went to one of those SAA sessions with 2.0 in the title. It was terrible (so terrible that I’ve blanked it out so I can’t tell you what was wrong)! I don’t usually bail on sessions, but I had to then and I was only one of many doing so. Instead I had a great conversation with others who bailed about successes/bombs/plans using 2.0 in everyday work.

  10. It isn’t just some archivists. At a previous job I was involved with a multi-departmental project that was going awry and wiki was the perfect application to address the issues. I, the archivist, offhandedly proposed a wiki to the communications folks (i.e. folks who should know about 2.0 tech, right?). They enthusiastically said yes. Later, one of them came to me and confessed that she didn’t know what a wiki was and in hindsight I suspect she wasn’t the only one. On the other hand, it was the one piece of technology that I didn’t have to drag the IT guy kicking and screaming; he installed the software within the day (he kicked and screamed whenever it came to databases). I left the job before the wiki came to fruition for unrelated reasons.

  11. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog but this is my first post. I think you do a great service in highlighting new issues and I always find plenty to think about. I agree that Web 2.0 discussions and experiences should be a bigger part of professional meetings. I don’t think that we’ve reached the stage yet where they are considered to be everyday but that would be great. The UK and Ireland Society of Archives also has its annual conference coming up ( and they do have some Web 2.0 sessions planned which will hopefully encourage attendees to go back and experiment with Web 2.0 as well as sessions on web preservation. However, we don’t have a wiki for our conference, which is a shame but maybe next year…

    I understand that we can be reluctant to engage with the record-keeping challenges of Web 2.0 records but would echo your point about embracing these technologies for our own purposes. Surely if they aren’t discussed at these kinds of meetings then those parts of the profession that don’t know how to use or understand them will never learn.

  12. I just learned that there will be a presentation on Web 2.0 at the Academy of Certified Archivists’ Open Forum on Certification on Thursday, August 28 from 12:30 to 1:30. Here’s an outline of the report:

    1. Introduction
    a. Idea of the study group
    b. Benefits of the group
    c. Organization of the group

    2. Web 2.0 Interface
    a. tools used
    i. wiki
    ii. chat
    iii. blog
    b. Pros and cons of these tools

    3. Conclusions
    a. what worked, what didn’t
    b. what we could have done differently, etc.

    To be honest, I’m not sure what the history of this study is. I only became a CA last August, so I think this was proposed at the last annual meeting. Russell James was part of the team, although he won’t be there to present. He might be able to shed some light on the project. I think it is geared towards using Web 2.0 to promote ACA or maybe to help study for the exam. I recently became the Webmaster of the ACA, so I’ll be interested in the presentation.

  13. Regarding Session 508: we actually used a blog and a wiki during the project. It’s a good example of integrating 2.0 tools into a project without them being a focus and that embedded approach is, I 100% agree with Merillee, a more profitable pathway for the profession. It’s been well said above, but I’d like to reiterate that 2.0 for the sake of 2.0 is just not a feasible or reasonable approach. A focus on technological adaption skills in the archival professional community is much more critical, and will serve the profession much better than an isolated focus on a particular set of tools.

    The Session 508 project provided a unique opportunity for all staff (21 participating archivists) to use and experiment with online tools; for some staff, this was their first time using a wiki regularly or contributing/subscribing to a blog feed. It’s a good model for how to make use of technology in a meaningful way and encourage colleagues to learn adaptive skills that are crucial in the 21st century.

    I won’t be in SF (my beautiful hometown, sniff) but hope everyone has a great time. Report back if you can, please!

  14. Kathleen,

    Sorry we won’t see you in SF!

    Do you know if the speakers in session 508 are going to talk in any detail about how they used these tools? As I hope I’ve made clear previously, I’m not interested in 2.0 tools for their own sake, but only as they are useful. My concern about the program–or at least the way the sessions are described–is that if you want to see examples of how archives have used 2.0 tools you can’t tell which sessions might be of interest to you. You have to do what I did, which is guess, and I think for the kind of money those of us who are attending are spending that we shouldn’t have to guess. I think lots of people who are interested but haven’t jumped into the pool yet or are still on the fence (to mix metaphors) want to see how other archives, like yours, have actually found 2.0 tools useful. I don’t want to see the web 2.0 label slapped on every session, but I would like more information to help me make an educated decision about what sessions to attend. (And, LO, I think I walked out of that session too–and had some great conversations in the hallway. At least we got something out of it!)

    Also, I’ll put it in a link roundup soon, but people might want to check out this post, “Web 2.0 and Archives: Something like a Phenomenon?” at – this is a new blog for me–the University of London Computer Centre’s Digital Archives blog.


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