Reconsidering technical labor in information institutions: The case of analog video digitization

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3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Technical labor is still typically made invisible in the functioning of academic libraries and other information institutions even as they begin to disseminate technical and craft knowledge through makerspaces and other sites of library innovation. This paper seeks to recover one type of technical labor, digitization, as information work that embodies mental and manual activities and is both materially and intellectually productive. This paper draws on findings from an empirical study conducted by the author from 2015–2017 that used qualitative-interpretive methods to study the discursive and material practices of professional media preservationists as they worked to digitize analog video recordings in small-scale, high-quality (“artisanal”) digitization projects. One key finding of this research is that in order to produce “legitimate” digital copies within their institutional contexts, media preservationists must coordinate their physical and mental activities to develop understanding of the invisible electrical signals that carry the encoded video information, blending objective and subjective modalities of knowledge. These findings have implications for understanding how the invisible labor of digitization has significant mental as well as manual dimensions, contributing to ongoing debates in information studies and the digital humanities on the relationship between “doing” and “signifying” in terms of knowledge work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-251
Number of pages39
JournalLibrary Trends
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences

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