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Theory and Practice

January 10, 2012

Caroline Williams’ article sparked off a lively debate at the latest Cardigan Continuum meeting. Questions raised included that old chestnut ‘what is theory’ as well as many others such as ‘are archivists of a more theoretical bent than records managers?’ Some felt they were, but then the records managers amongst us started speaking of retention schedules as a form of theory so I am not so sure. The conversation also ranged over the role of the educator in teaching theory and the value of theory, which was felt to be an good explanatory tool, as well as a resource in helping to make sense of uncertain situations.

All this talk of theory and practice brought us onto MoReq 2010, which a number of us saw as a good example of a standard which was both theoretically grounded as well as practice orientated. As a result we have decided that the next ‘text’ for discussion will not be a written one, but the first episode in the podcast series Musing over MoReq 2010. In this podcast Jon Garde, the author of the MoReq 2010 specification, discusses some of the assumptions underlying it.

And so, the date for your diary is Monday 13th February at 6.30pm. We will meet once again in the Marquis of Granby, which seems to be becoming our regular haunt and will remain so until we can come up with a different venue we like more. Suggestions are welcome below along with the usual comments.

  1. I really enjoyed the text as it made me think about theory and the relationship between archives and records management again. The discussion was lively which indicates that theory does have a place in the lives of today’s practitioners. I did not find it surprising that one conclusion of the article was that many practitioners do not ‘consciously’ make use of theory in their day-to-day work but I am sure that most of their decisions are instinctively based on theory that they once came across. I also enjoyed the idea of the retention schedule as a piece of theory which explains why users hardly understand or take them seriously 🙂

    As a records manager I feel that our profession does not have enough or not such well-defined theory as the archives world does. I always marvel at archive conferences that discuss the postmodern text or artefacts in a more philosophical fashion whereas RM conferences seem to be stuck on an endless cycle of ERMS implementations. Will someone please step up to change that?! (I am sure that will come back to bite me)

    I was surprised to hear that people felt Moreq2010 was a great example of theory put to practice and am curious to hear more about the background thinking that went into it.

    As a suggestion for the blog – would it be possible to have a page with all the article citations and links that we have used and maybe build up a stock of texts that we could discuss in the future? All suggestions welcome!

  2. 80gb permalink

    Yes, definitely agreed a stock of text suggestions would be a good idea – I keep thinking of new ones at inopportune times, and then promptly forgetting what they are.

    Also the citations. I am likely to remember some part of that paper we discussed in the pub, but not have a clue who wrote it or where…

    Should be able use a Zotero group or something to manage it all?

  3. Andrew Janes permalink

    Since the last meeting I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what Jenny said about mentoring, and especially mentoring as a shared group experience rather than a mentor-and-mentee tete-a-tete. What I particularly value about this group is being prompted to read (or listen to!) and think about something that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred to me. (I do wonder how much use my half-formed thoughts are to anyone else, though…)

    On the theme of future suggestions, what about these?
    “Single Search” –
    “More Product, Less Process” –

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