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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

diffusioN oF innovationS

Title of Article
Adoption and Diffusion of Encoded Archival Description
Authors and Biographies
Elizabeth Yakel is a University of Michigan (U of M) Associate Professor, with a Ph.D. in information. She is interested in use and user services for archival materials, particularly focusing on the digital realm and the development of recordkeeping systems. Yakel is involved in several research projects; has participated in numerous elected, appointed, and voluntary professional and service activities; has won various awards for her research and professional contributions; has published many books, chapters, journal articles, papers in conference proceedings, technical publications and manuals, and book reviews; has given presentations as invitee, has given workshops, and has taught courses at the Universities of Michigan and Pittsburgh.
Jihyun Kim is a U of M School of Information doctoral student. She is interested in digital library/archive use affected by interactions of social and technical factors. The Society of American Archivists (SAA) maintains many of Kim’ scholarly works on the SAA website, and they gave Kim the Oliver Wendell Holmes Award.
Source and Credibility of Source
This female mentor/protégé team has collaborated on several scholarly endeavors (U of M, School of Information, 2007). The prestigious U of M School of Information is an American Library Association (ALA) Accredited Master’s Program in Library & Information Studies (ALA, 2006). The “Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), a fully refereed scholarly and technical periodical, has been published continuously since 1950” (American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), n.d.). ASIS&T, “(s)ince 1937. . . has been the society for information professionals leading the search for new and better theories, techniques, and technologies to improve access to information” (ASIS&T). “Wiley InterScience. . . is a leading international resource for quality content promoting discovery across the spectrum of scientific, technical, medical and professional endeavors” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. , 2007).
Thesis and Summary of Major Points
The authors reported their interpretations of two to eleven year old data related to encoded archival description (EAD), through the filter of E. M. Rogers’ (1995) Diffusion of Innovations theory, itself a nine year old theory at the time. They assumed the reader had a working knowledge of the theory. Diffusion of innovations, a macro (general) level communications and technological theory, “centers on the conditions which increase or decrease the likelihood that a new idea, product, or practice will be adopted by members of a given culture” (Universiteit Twente, 2006).
Adoption of EAD within the U. S. archival community ranges from total to nil. Yakel and Kim (2004) measured the acceptance of EAD, using two primary measures- EAD education, and the actual diffusion pattern- to interpret data reported by participants of Research Libraries Group and SAA workshops held between 1993 and July, 2002. EAD focuses on finding aids (registers, inventories, calendars, card catalogs, indexes, etc.), but other access tools might benefit from construction with EAD.
Characteristics of Innovations
“Rogers poses five characteristics of innovations that can be examined in relation to adoption: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, triability, and observability” (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1428). Authors found compatibility (with descriptive practices, institutional structure, staff size, and infrastructure) to be the major characteristic effecting EAD adoption in the archival community. They discussed methods of publishing finding aids, to address the characteristic of relative advantage.
Funding impedes the implementation of EAD in many environments. Funding colored the discussion of complexity, the other major characteristic, discussed in terms of EAD encoding software, encoding and publication of finding aids, outsourcing and consortia. “(C)omplexity (is) diminished with the use of support tools, such as the EAD Cookbook” (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1434).
Roger’s (1995) theory re-emerges within “Funding Models” during the discussion of triability, stating “. . . that there are five stages in the innovation decision process: knowledge gathering, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation” (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1435). Workshops offered one method of gaining information. Participants experienced EAD, and if they understood it, they might have made an informed decision about EAD implementation. Funding also affects observability. If invisible to users, innovations may as well be nonexistent.
Discussion
Yakel and Kim (2004, p. 1435) determined several findings needed further discussion; “(a) size as a factor in EAD adoption, (b) compatibility with current descriptive programs and practices, (c) technological expertise, and (d) adopting but not diffusing EAD.” One conclusion stood out from the others, and seemed to refute what they had tried to establish. EAD could exist without diffusion of EAD expertise, in defiance of all efforts made to implement EAD. Only maintenance and extension of EAD knowledge could ensure internalization of EAD expertise, ensuring the continuance of good finding aids, and whatever else EAD might encompass.
Conclusion
This early analysis of EAD diffusion and implementation indicated “that a majority of the respondents (58%) have not adopted EAD. Reasons for the lack of adoption include an apparent size barrier, a lack of compatibility with existing descriptive practices, and the complexity of the technology” (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1436). EAD adoption in the U. S. lacks uniformity. The U. S. archival community will continue to monitor its ability to maintain the trend of innovation of EAD, if at all possible.
Reactions, Thoughts, Opinions
Diffusion of innovations provided a theoretical framework to filter findings of surveys for reporting. Rogers’ update of this hundred year old theory (Rogers, 1995, p. 40), ten years old at the time of publishing, might still work as a relevant communication theory. However, in those hundred years, practitioners in the fields of anthropology, sociology, education, public health and medical sociology, marketing and management, geography, economics, and others, have found it lacking (Rogers, pp. 42-43). A new angle may work better. Failed attempts at innovation litter evolution and world history. Technology improves and progresses quicker than potential users accept it. Rogers’ theory offered the best way to evaluate equally old data. Perhaps its time to forget about raising the dead, and glue the book’ cover to his headstone for his epitaph.
Other theories, on different levels of observation, exist within the communication and information technology field, and may have provided better interpretation of data, and a more transparent reporting of results. Adaptive structuration, a mesa level, or more specific, theory, examines “the role of advanced information technologies in organization change. AST examines the change process from two vantage points 1) the types of structures that are provided by the advanced technologies and 2) the structures that actually emerge in human action as people interact with these technologies” (Universiteit Twente, 2006). A closer examination of survey data might have presented the findings on a more personal, understandable level, for practitioners who do not have the perceived advantages offered by individuals with Ph. D.’s.
Searches for current literature about EAD do not readily appear in searches of academic data bases, a fact which precipitated the authors’ creation of this current effort. As stated, “. . . literature consists primarily of overviews of the history and evolution of EAD. . . , case studies describing individual experiences with EAD. . . ,” and “three cross-institutional analyses of EAD adoption “ (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1428). With this article more information now exists. Will the majority of implementers of EAD find the information understandable, and most importantly, useful? The findings indicate only about one-half of responders to the survey have implemented EAD. This population may or may not be indicative of the population as a whole, but it does provide some processed data. Figure 1 (Yakel & Kim, p. 1429) did not include any responders to the survey from corporate bodies. This constituent includes the majority of institutions at work as money-making concerns. The numbers may not speak for themselves.
Methodology and statistics introduce fledglings to the mire of numbers, and the myriad ways to report them, if the imagination allows it. For the academic community, and professional organizations who follow such publications, this knowledge may represent a past, or perhaps current, state of EAD in institutions, and offers a starting point from which to continue the internalization of EAD. Numbers presented interesting information about EAD encoding software (Yakel & Kim, 2004, p. 1433), and encoding and publication of finding aids (Yakel & Kim, p. 1434). EAD got compared to Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) in many ways (adoption and diffusion patterns, finding aids, training, internalization, incorporated principles and standards, format, implementers). However, EAD may not become as ingrained in archival society as MARC became in the library world. Archival professionals say EAD encoding lacks incorporation in budgets because the budget lacks funds for personnel. The vicious cycle continues. No money for personnel, or, no resources for resources!
The idea that adoption of EAD could exist without diffusion of EAD expertise seemed both paradoxical and alluring. Fully two-thirds of encoders and interested persons get introduced to EAD at workshops. Encoders included mostly professional archivists, but also paraprofessionals, students, and clerical employees, from various and related technological skills. So the nuts and bolts of encoding might not require the theoretical knowledge and abilities of doctoral students. That makes life easier. When resources became available for maintenance and extension of EAD, some institutions provided time for continuance of encoding, and its internalization. The “Electronic Archives” course should instruct to a much greater proficiency than a workshop would. When the resources become available, personnel become available to pursue encoding, the production of finding aids, and publishing the results. Access to information, provided by the learning, or internalization, of information, to get the information encoded, finally provides a more or less good package for use by customers. To date, the usability of finding aids runs the gamut, from not usable, to very usable. Professional archivists live this reality every day (T. Featherstone, personal communication, January 23, 2007) (C. Lewis, personal communication, January 26, 2007).
The article read like something produced by a student with lots of book knowledge, but little real world experience. At times the reading became confusing. Perhaps an overabundance of data, a lack of understanding, personal interpretations of the writers, or maybe lack of communication skills, led to a lack of desire to continue reading at points. Continuing, and not understanding, proved the method to make it to the end of the article- sort of like a surgical shotgun blast, tearing up everything in sight, and baffled! Thoughts and opinions formed the basis of the analysis. The organization, and diversity of subjects discussed, left room for learning, and further comprehension. The enjoyment of the learning experience came by way of reading. Learning occurred. Interpretation of data led to new literature, a reason for the paper to begin with.
References to outside resources, which offered much basic information on the subject of EAD, led to the discovery of new sources of information for future pursuits. The EAD Cookbook- 2002 Edition (SAA, 2004) contained references to the Encoded Archival Description, version 2002 Official Site (Library of Congress, 2006). Basic and detailed information describes EAD beyond current knowledge of beginning encoders. Further research in these references can further internalization of skills. Knowing that specialized EAD software exists makes for a bright future, assuming the institution has software that works. Of course, without knowledge of the basic archival principles, the interpretation and reporting of research for users may be futile.
Finally, with this insight, knowledge of the past and present leads to visions in the future. But has EAD had judgment passed already? Does lack of resources (people, materials, money, time) mean EAD will end up as so much more worthless information, waiting for its discovery in a time capsule by a future citizen, or by some alien being that runs into a distant space craft launched in time memoriam? Maybe they forgot to include it on the inventory as an oversight. Discarded technology comes and goes. Which technology, current, or yet to be designed, will save our historical information for future generations and worlds?
References
American Library Association (ALA). (2006). 2006-2007 directory of institutions offeringALA-accredited master's programs in library and information studies. Retrieved February 1, 2007 from http://www.ala.org/ala/accreditation/lisdirb/lisdirectory.htm#us
American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). (n.d.). About ASIS&T. Retrieved February 1, 2007, from http://asis.org/about.html
American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). (n.d.). Journal of the American society for information science and technology. Retrieved February 1, 2007, from http://asis.org/jasist.html
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2007). Wiley InterScience. Retrieved February 1, 2007, from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/aboutus/
Library of Congress, Network Development and MARC Standards Office. (September 8, 2006). Encoded archival description, version 2002 official site. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from http://www.loc.gov/ead/.
Rogers. E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.
Society of American Archivists (SAA). (2007). SAA search results: Jihyun Kim. Retrieved January 30, 2007, from http://www.picosearch.com/cgi-bin/ts.pl
Society of American Archivists. (3/30/04). The EAD cookbook- 2002 edition. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from http://www.archivists.org/saagroups/ead/tools_and_helper_files/ead2002cookbook/EAD2002cookbook.pdf
Universiteit Twente. (05/31/2006). Communication theories. Retrieved January 21, 2007, from http://www.tcw.utwente.nl/theorieenoverzicht/
University of Michigan, School of Information. (2007). People: faculty profile. Elizabeth Yakel. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.si.umich.edu/people/faculty-detail.htm?sid=247
University of Michigan, School of Information. (2007). People: Ph.D. student profile. Jihyun Kim. Retrieved January 29, 2007, from http://www.si.umich.edu/people/phd-detail.htm?ID=817
Yakel, E. (04.10.03). Welcome to Elizabeth Yakel’s website. Retrieved January 29-30, 2007, from http://www-personal.si.umich.edu/~yakel/yakelhome.htm
Yakel, E., & Kim, J. (2004). Adoption and diffusion of encoded archival description. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56(13), 1427-1437.

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