In this episode of Recordkeeping Roundcasts, we pick up the conversation with TNA’s John Sheridan, turning to the experimentation that he and colleagues at allied institutions are doing in distributed ledger technologies.
For background, take a look at this recent post by Alex Green on the TNA blog about Project ARCHANGEL.
CF: It is a critical juncture, I think, for archives in all forms. Certainly, as you’ve articulated, the expectations for digital records, digital information, discoverability are exerting pressures on archives. I need to move on, as I could talk about this stuff all day. Continue reading →
Welcome to Recordkeeping Roundcasts, a series of conversations with interesting people who are doing interesting things.
In this first episode the Recordkeeping Roundtable’s Cassie Findlay is talking with John Sheridan, Digital Director at The National Archives UK, about the challenges of scale and complexity that come with digital recordkeeping. As background for this conversation, take a look at TNA’s Digital Strategy, released in May 2017.
CF: It’s terrific to be speaking to you, John Sheridan from The National Archives UK. Thank you very much for agreeing to chat with me about a number of topics of interest.
JS: It’s a real pleasure to have this opportunity to talk about all these great things that we have to think about. Continue reading →
So I thought I’d share an excerpt from the talk, which was originally presented in Reus, Catalonia, as part of the Association of Catalan Archivists’ annual conference, bits of which were then included in a talk in Dublin organised by the National Archives of Ireland. Thanks so much to all my fabulous hosts.
Of course, many of these ideas are not new, nor are they mine alone. In particular, my Roundtable colleagues have written on this theme here on this blog and I’d encourage everyone to have a look (especially at ‘Reinventing Appraisal‘ and ‘Reinventing Access’).
Yes! The (increasing) symbiosis of the work of recordkeepers and journalists, in particular, has been a preoccupation of mine for some time. Both the archival/recordkeeping and journalistic professions are going through fundamental change and risk extinction in the future without significant and rapid evolution. Both are losing their grip on forms of control that once gave them a monopoly; online, anyone can disseminate a story or construct an ‘archive’. Both are operating in the midst of the political forces come into play around information access, and both are struggling to find ways to continue to fulfil their missions as a result. Questions of trust, power, authenticity and connectedness are central to understanding and responding to these changes, for both professions. At the same time, the availability of authoritative evidence of what governments and others do – records – is more crucial than ever, both for journalists who want to want genuinely to offer a counter to so called ‘fake news’, and to society at large. Continue reading →
D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin (seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio (LOC)
Blockchain technology offer us a revolutionary new way to do business using the same database — a shared ledger, in effect, that is available to anyone who knows how to use it and has access to the tools. A ‘world database’ (as suggested recently by Vinay Gupta in his highly recommended piece on Medium, ‘Programmable blockchains in context’) that is owned by everyone participating, and controlled by no-one. This is trust through computation. Nothing is ‘entered’ in this environment unless it is agreed by the many thousands of computers that make up the network. Once coded, the transactions are uncorruptible and immutable.
Blockchain technology also enables us to build smart contracts on a platform like Ethereum. What are smart contracts? Essentially they are programs that execute “if this happens then do that”, that are run and verified by all the participants in the blockchain network. The blockchain stores the data, but the smart contract plans, executes and records the business. Continue reading →
Attending the Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive wasn’t a bad way to spend my first week living in San Francisco. Big thanks to Peter Van Garderen and Courtney Mumma for encouraging me to go.
Decentralized Web Summit, June 8 2016. Photo by Brad Shirakawa
It was an exciting, challenging and inspiring few days. There are some excellent reports on the overall programme out there; including Brewster Kahle’s, Mouse Reeve’s or Maira Sutton’s. There’s also a slew of media reporting from Wired, NYtimes, Fortune, Boing Boing and more. So rather than reviewing the event as a whole I’d like to try to highlight some of the technologies, projects and ideas that struck me as important for recordkeepers to know about. I’ll also (tentatively) make some suggestions about how our professional practices might fit into this emerging world.
Last month we held a session exploring blockchain technology, featuring speakers discussing the technology itself, key applications like smart contracts, legal and governance issues and the management of identity using blockchain technology. Our great thanks to Peter van Garderen, Payal Kapur and Hugo O’Connor for their fascinating and insightful talks.
We opened the session with some reflections on the relevance of blockchain technology to recordkeeping professionals.
Recordkeeping is all about trust. Trusted records mean trusted transactions, and therefore the ability to do business, provide services, support or object to our governments and understand the world around us. Recordkeepers seek to design systems to ensure that trustworthy evidence may be relied upon by the communities we serve. However current recordkeeping implementations are flawed, and permit imperfect recordkeeping, inequitable access to records and records loss. The emergence of decentralised trust through computation as seen with blockchain technology allows us to imagine new models for recordkeeping that can also bring greater assurance of longevity and availability for records users, and offer new opportunities for the disempowered to interact with and benefit from recordkeeping systems.
What we learned about the blockchain
Through the talks we learned that a definition of the blockchain is ‘a network of distributed public databases that leverage cryptography and peer to peer technology to group data into blocks and store as an immutable chain of transactions’.
Many people regard bitcoin and its foundational technology blockchain as the most exciting online innovations we have seen since the invention World Wide Web. Banks, governments and others are clamouring to use it as a basis for new, simple and low cost ways of doing business. Others see its potential for breaking down barriers of entry to marketplaces and the commons, bringing about a potentially fairer society in which value can be exchanged without the need for intermediaries. Continue reading →
This week I was lucky enough to attend the Sydney Blockchain Workshops, organised by the formidable women of COALA and held at the Powerhouse Museum. Before going on, I should say I will not be attempting here to explain the detail of how blockchain technology works and what its features are. Others are much better at this. Try this article from ex banker Antony Lewis A gentle introduction to blockchain technology if you would like to understand the basics.
Anyway, in no particular order, here are some of the things I saw and learned.
This wasn’t a tech conference. It was a conference about possibility and change – on almost every level of society, and across so many disciplines. Yes, banking and finance (there’s a reason the banks were falling over themselves to grab the blockchain experts who were in town this week, find out more here), but so much more. This technology has the potential to change the way we assign value, and transact with each other in almost every way. Continue reading →