Personal Information Management: A Study of the Practical Aspects of Archiving Personal Digital Information

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The digital era has reshaped the nature, scope, and use of personal information. People collect and store an ever-increasing volume of digital personal information on convenient portable devices and create large amounts of personal textual and visual digital information on their personal computers. Computer users have become accustomed to using a variety of tools that involve their interactive social activities. Because of social media, there is a large amount of user-generated content related to peoples’ lives and there is no way for creators to save it all. This phenomenon may thus result in a massive gap in our current history because invaluable information may be lost to future researchers. Because we may lose so much information, it is helpful to find out as much as we can about how people are managing their personal digital information (PDI). This dissertation explores one aspect of PDI: how graduate students organize their academic personal digital information. In this study, I address this aspect by collecting data that may help address Personal Information Management research. Thus, I have extracted from this study a model that represents these participants’ PIM activities. Using graduate students’ various management organizational styles, I have developed a model that represents most of these students’ digital information management styles. This qualitative research study investigated how sixteen graduate students from private colleges and universities in the Fenway area of Boston, Massachusetts, manage and archive their personal digital research information. Specific focus was placed on learning how different disciplines affected the ways in which these graduate students managed their personal digital information. The students were interviewed and given a file organization task. Most of the students in the study reported that they occasionally backup their personal digital files using external hard drives, USB flash drives, and cloud storage software such as Drop Box and Google Drive. The data analysis revealed a pattern among the study participants in the naming of their files. Most of the participants shared with the PI that when they created their files, they immediately classified their information per content specific themes, and then placed it in topic folders. These and other findings provided insight into the process of managing digital information and revealed a need for the reexamination of best practices and accepted standards used by archivists.

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Personal Information Management: A Study of the Practical Aspects of Archiving Personal Digital Information, 166 p.