Web 2.0 social computing technologies have signaled the era of “democratization” of archives by allowing users to interact with collections and finding aids, and be proactive in the process of knowledge production. The term “democratization” is of course questionable and controversial considering the “digital divide,” and the easiness with which new media can be manipulated.
Historians doing Jewish history study people whose “memory” is kept in multiple repositories in different countries with often competing and opposing histories, and various languages. The variety of archival holdings (in shape, form, and content) limits what a historian can physically and intellectually do. Web 2.0 social computing environments offer the possibility to overcome such realities that affect our knowledge about history both quantitatively as well as qualitatively.
I would like to explore how historians and “lay people,” through social computing environments, can contribute to scholarship and collection development by populating archives with their amassed, individual knowledge. Social computing environments offer unprecedented opportunities for historians studying common subjects to come together and create a wealth of data.
I will tie this specifically with the case of Sephardic communities in the Balkans. I would like to examine issues of authorship and how these communities can or should impose access restrictions for material that they have produced but now cannot control due to political, legal, linguistic, or geographic reasons.