Today I presented a paper at the International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (ICHORA) that shared some of the results of my field study at the National Software Reference Library. The basic gist of the talk is that appraisal in web archives (at least in the case of the NSRL) is intrinsically tied to use, but not use in the typical sense, where use is only conceived in terms of research.

I use Sarah Ahmed’s book What’s the Use and specifically her technique of examining the “use of use” and the “strange temporalities of use” as an analytical frame for examining the valuation of archival records. The varieties of use, misuse and disuse provide a window into how this web archive participates in a network of actors that discipline digital preservation, law enforcement, national security and defense.

Since the conference is remote I decided to record my talk, in order to make sure I timed things properly–I have a tendency to wander. Unfortunately it seems that recording the talk on Linux and playing it back through Zoom turned out to be problematic. The slides didn’t neatly transition from one to the other, but left graphic artifacts behind. But luckily the audio worked ok, and the display in PeerTube is just fine:

This talk actually forms the core of my dissertation defense next week, assuming the world still exists then. I was a bit surprised that nobody balked at my claim that appraisal is tied to use, and that records in web archives have no intrinsic value (e.g. as evidence) unless you consider the use of use. I choose to interpret this as the happy result of me making a really good case ;-)