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Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power: An Interview with Daochun Li

8 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features Daochun Li, a master’s student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information.

Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?

Daochun: The title of my conference presentation is “Personal Archiving and Identity Formation in the Context of Social Media.”

Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

Daochun: I'm in the dual Master of Information and Master of Museum Studies (MI/MMst) program at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. I completed my undergraduate degree in Languages, Literature and Culture Studies, and Film and Media Studies at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario). I am also working at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as an Information Management Student this summer.

Q: What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice?

Daochun: I have always been passionate about arts, human memories, and storytelling. In the meanwhile, I am also looking to learn more about how and why human memories can be preserved for future generations. My undergraduate experience was eye-opening for me when I encountered a course about oral cultural traditions and a course in semiotic studies. They both influenced me a lot in understanding how information is highly associated with human memories that have the cultural significance of telling the truth and preserving traditions. My experience in media studies further encourages me to explore a pathway that not only involves my passion for information and human memories, but also offers me a chance to critically challenge the current reality of the archival field, and to understand how technology can be better adapted to social needs for meaningful memory-keeping practices.

Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

Daochun: In my opinion, redefining archival power means rethinking what archival practices have been done and what could be done in the future. The power of archives reveals an ability to change, to allow voices to be heard, but it also empowers silences and erasure with the contested interests. Archivists are constantly confronted with choices about what to include and what to exclude. I think that it is good if the questioning process is ongoing, so we are trained to ask ourselves, “why it is important to keep one thing instead of the other?” More importantly, I think questioning must involve pushing oneself one step forward to ask: “Why should it be excluded?” In this way, the status quo of the power of archives can be continuously questioned and redefined by finding voices through silences.

Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives? 

Daochun: I love to start my research with something that I have a connection with. While thinking about the information density of my personal life, I realize that using social media has become one of the major gateways for me to understand my surroundings and become a reflective tool for the curation of self. My personal life and identity have been heavily impacted using social media, and sometimes, it is a bit “spooky” to see how my interpretation of the world and myself could simply be shaped through a platform. My research draws upon the embedded power dynamics within social media platforms by looking at, for instance, the entity of user’s profiles, information policy, and the external flow of social media posts, to explore where and how an individual’s identity is shaped using social media and its potential impact on making personal archiving decisions.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?

Daochun: I am looking forward to visiting the conference in person this year, and most importantly, spending a few days staying in Vancouver and exploring the city a bit. I’m especially excited about the session of “Lost and Found: Reconsidering Chinese Immigration records at 100 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act” and the session “Technology and Archives” on Friday. I am also looking forward to meeting new people at the ACA conference!

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