The Shifting Landscape of Electronic Personal Information

By Altepeter, Andrew | Information Management, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview
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The Shifting Landscape of Electronic Personal Information


Altepeter, Andrew, Information Management


The way people create, store, and manage their personal information is in the midst of a radical transformation. In the course of a few short decades, most people will have moved from paper to local electronic storage to largely cloud-based solutions to manage their information.

In the coming years, correspondence, personal photographs, critical medical and financial records, and other personal records not only will be stored electronically, but they also will be accessed through websites hosted remotely across countless servers in different parts of the world.

This presents numerous new challenges, both for individuals hoping to manage the infinitely expanding amount of personal information and for information professionals who hope to preserve it for business use or historical study.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

Unfortunately, the literature in personal information management always seems to be one step behind the moving target and, according to Christopher A. Lee in his publication I Digital." Personal Collections in the Digital Era, "limited to a few scattered journal articles and research project websites." This book, featuring nine other contributors, is a forward-looking attempt to fill that gap and bring experts from other fields into a new, unified body of literature.

Lee divides the book into three parts. The first deals with the foundations of personal collections; the second identifies the types of electronic personal information; and the third offers strategies for managing these types of data. Each part contains several chapters offering approaches to the larger themes by authors from a variety of backgrounds.

In his opening chapter, Lee identifies two existing streams of literature from which he draws personal information management (PIM) and archives and records management (ARM). Traditionally, PIM has emphasized the ways individuals create and manage their own information, and ARM represents the methods organizations and institutions use to manage and preserve their collective information.

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However, the boundaries between these two fields are quickly disappearing as individuals often co-mingle their personal information with work information, and IT organizations move toward a "bring-your-own-device" model.

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