Part Deux - Prioritization of Content Types

Horse pulling plow in an orchard, southern Oregon?

Horse pulling plow in an orchard, southern Oregon?

Oh, hey, I’m back! So, last time we talked about event based preservation. At the end of that post, i posed a number of question about how to move forward with this discussion/idea. I’d like to dig in on one of those questions here: What is the right balance of technical vs. art vs. sociological vs. ??? content for this corpus of recovery-related information/knowledge?  Recall that the goal here is to consider information preservation in the context of catalyzing recovery after a catastrophic societal collapse. So what types of information are helpful on that front? Here is my ranked list of information types for this style of preservation.

  1. Applied Technical - Most Important - these are things like technical reports, agriculture guides, engineering guides, etc. What do we get from this information that is so important? Primarily we would hope to use this information to rebuild physical infrastructure. This is how we get our water purification, electricity generation, crop production, and food preservation back online. Depending on the speed and severity of collapse, these elementary skills and technologies may be of utmost importance for stabilizing society and setting the recovery trajectory.

    As a librarian at a Land Grant institution, I am pretty familiar with this type of content through our interactions with the State Extension Office. Many of these applied technical materials assume an element of DIY-ness, and especially older content (e.g. from the turn of the 20th century) is a treasure trove of how-tos and best-practices.

  2. Art - Medium Important - a broad category, to be sure, but contains music, literature, visual arts, performance arts, and so on. Why medium important? Well, this is the stuff that feeds the soul when everything else is in the pits. Need to unwind after a hard day of building a grain mill out of local stone? Maybe picking up a technical manual isn’t the best choice. Reading a collection of short stories, or looking through a collection of paintings from days of yore is a better choice.

  3. Humanities/Social Science/Science Academic Writing - Least Important - again, a pretty broad category. This is the stuff we often find in our institutional repositories and journals, and it is usually pretty esoteric. Important? Yes! Critical for catalyzing recovery? Unliklely? Now, this is not to say this stuff is not important, but the level of specificity here is likely to be hard to reconcile with basic survival and reconstruction.  

Maybe there is something here: physical infrastructure vs. spiritual infrastructure vs. intellectual infrastructure. Again, these are all important things, but in prioritization, context is critical.

Selection is another issue - how does one select which information is most relevant. Where does this information come from? I think this is a much larger issue that i can’t muster the energy to discuss here today, but i’ve got some thoughts bouncing around that might be helpful. Will update on this topic at some point in the future.

Of course, sources of information for preservation are going to vary regionally, by organization, etc. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for one institution to attempt to preserve information for recovery if that institution currently retains only a subset of the useful information. The university I work for has a long history of agriculture and engineering research and outreach, but is particularly lacking in the areas of the arts and humanities. Down the road, another state institution has a relatively stronger history in the areas of architecture, law, and the humanities. Does it make sense to build regional caches of preserved information for recovery? How do we define those regions?

I think thats all for now. Lets keep talking about this (if you’ve engaged with me on the topic already) or start talking about it (if you haven’t). Looking forward to more discussion.