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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