The Records Continuum in the real world

I finally listened to Northumbria’s RM Today podcast (from August…) on the records continuum http://nuweb.northumbria.ac.uk/ceis_podcasts/episode06.php.

James Lappin & Joanne Evans did a really good job of untangling the continuum, particularly the diagram which has haunted me – and it seems, others – since I first saw it on someone’s ppt slide and didn’t get it.

The diagram can be seen (fig 1 p.8) in http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/research/groups/rcrg/publications/frank-u-rmj-2001.pdf.  James mentioned that Ketelaar describes it as a the cross-section of a cone, with  creation at the point and all the dimensions in play there, moving out through space and time to form the cone.  And suddenly it fell into place – I could apply it to practice for the first time.

Perhaps because it got me thinking too about my current role and about the semantics of “archives” and “records management” that James & Joanne also touched on in their discussion about how the continuum had influenced practice in Australia (where it was developed).  Although my job title is the University Records Manager, in pure continuum terms I could maybe more accurately be described as the University Document Pre-Creation Adviser** – at the moment, for one particular project: the work that I’m doing now to train academic colleagues to create their examination papers using the official template and create them directly in wisdom (our edrms).

The training sessions (1 down, 16 to go) follow a big piece of work on the business processes around exam papers, driven by business requirements which has then dictated the recordkeeping requirements.  So thinking in continuum terms, hopefully now each exam paper document will be created by the actor (the individual academic) prior to a transaction (the first internal review of the paper) with the initial traces of metadata (automatically inherited from the wisdom fileplan) and of audit trail.  As the process moves on the cone starts fanning/flaring out from the point of creation through space and time.  So the process progresses through the transactions in the organise and pluralise dimensions – external validation of the exam paper, send the final paper to Registry with confirmation of numbers/exam requirements, send the paper to Printing Services for preparation, distribute to the students in the exam, publish in the Library.

We’re still bound by the systems we actually have available and implemented to do all this, so the brave new records management 2.0 world is still a way off and this particular process still relies on an awful lot of people “doing the right thing right” – telling the crowd (and keeping fingers crossed) rather than waiting for its wisdom (groan) to shape the records.

But thanks to Northumbria’s podcast I have got a bit more of a framework to help me imagine what RM 2.0 might look like in actual, implement-able practice now.  Next step: get a rather less hazy idea about Google Wave.

** My current job title is obscure enough for most colleagues, so I won’t pursue this one.

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