In an effort to understand what is going on in the world of Personal Electronic Filing, a few weeks ago I emailed some people I had identified from papers and web searches. The results have been very rewarding.
It is now clear to me that what was a niche area in the 1990s has expanded hugely to become a topic in its own right with a large body of literature and a worldwide community of interest. The rise of personal computing, email, social media and the mobile phone has effectively made most individuals – whether they know it or not – personal information managers; personal information is now considered to extend to photos, calendar entries, text messages, social media material etc.; and the ubiquity of electronic media has necessitated the development of the field of data forensics to capture and identify evidence. The field of Data Preservation is of particular interest to Libraries and Museums which are grappling with the practical problems of curating collections which include digital material. There appear to be many initiatives underway in all these areas, of which various EEC-funded projects, the UK Data Preservation Coalition, the US Library of Congress guidance notes, and William Jones’ Personal Information Management workshops are probably just the tip of the iceberg. I’m grateful to Neil Beagrie for linking me into much of this material.
With this new awareness I have begun to try and understand the role that my personal collection might have. In particular, I’m wondering if it could become a Test Set for exploring Data Preservation issues rather than the original aim of being a Test Set for Personal Indexing and Retrieval (an objective which seems to have become defunct since the rise of the Search Engine). This could be a useful focal point in my continuing search to find people to collaborate with.