Visual analytics, cognition and archival arrangement and description: studying archivists’ cognitive tasks to leverage visual thinking for a sustainable archival future

Abstract

This paper explores the possibility of using visual analysis to support archival functions. It first reviews the current state of experimentation with the use of interactive visual interfaces in the archival domain, noting several gaps including the absence of formal studies of cognitive and perceptual tasks. The paper then reports on preliminary results from a cognitive task analysis of archival arrangement and description, providing a broad brush description of archival analysis during arrangement and description as an example of archival sense-making. It then suggests some possible leverage points where visual analytics technology might be applied to support archival arrangement and description and concludes by reflecting on some theoretical and practical aspects of visualization technologies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Readers should be aware that this report is behind a pay wall and only accessible at a significant cost; however, the IDC site from which the publication can be accessed does point to a number of sources that cite the report and from which a good amount of information about what is in the report can be obtained.

  2. 2.

    For more information about ZigZag™, see http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/lac/zigzag/, accessed on 10 June 2013.

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Acknowledgments

This research has been carried out with funding from the Boeing Corporation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The author would like to thank her research assistants Lara Mancuso, Justin Chan, and Kevin Owen for their contributions to this project. A debt of gratitude is also owed to the two anonymous archivists who participated in the arrangement and description project analysed for this study. Without them, and the support of their managers, this study would not have been possible. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers of earlier versions of this paper whose constructive criticisms greatly improved the final version. Any errors and omissions remain the sole responsibility of the author.

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Correspondence to Victoria L. Lemieux.

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Lemieux, V.L. Visual analytics, cognition and archival arrangement and description: studying archivists’ cognitive tasks to leverage visual thinking for a sustainable archival future. Arch Sci 15, 25–49 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-013-9212-y

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Keywords

  • Arrangement and description
  • Visual analytics
  • Visualization
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Protocol analysis
  • Sense-making
  • Human–computer interaction