Information Archives

I’ve been spending Wednesday mornings in the library this summer working on my Freaks and Geeks project in the company of other academics working on their own projects. One of the frustrating things about today’s session is that I’m trying to find a particular advertisement that NBC created for Freaks and Geeks that used the tagline “What high school was like for the rest of us.” And I can’t find it. This made me start thinking about all of the cultural ephemera that we have lost because we don’t pay attention at the start of a project to archiving the materials of the project.

As I’ve said before, I’m also working on a project this summer (and into the next academic year) that will transform my university’s structure around interdisciplinary clusters. No other university has attempted such a vast overhaul of the way they do things and so we are being watched by people all over the higher education landscape. I am serving as a guide for the project (I’m not always completely sure what that means). A group of us guides decided last week that we should be documenting the process of change as it occurs and no one is going to do that documentation if we don’t. So we’re working on a proposal describing how to do that. In the meantime, some of us have started our own personal documentation using various social media platforms. We don’t know exactly what will happen with the materials that we create and collect or how we will end up using them but we hope that we will be able provide lessons (both positive and negative) to other universities that are thinking about major transformation initiatives.

Once again, I see connections between my two major projects this summer, even though they seem very different from each other on the surface. This idea of connections also got me thinking about how I do my research for the Freaks and Geeks project (which is no different than the way most people do research). I sometimes find myself having followed paths of inquiry that have led me in very different directions compared to where I thought I was going. For example, I was researching other television shows related to high school. The TV show James at 15 is on that list. It was only on for two seasons and I was just a year younger than the title character. I loved that show! It was another “realistic” look at high school kids, but with less comedy than Freaks and Geeks. I haven’t seen (or really even thought about) the show since its original airing. I wanted to know if it was as good as I remembered and so I did a bit of research, starting with Wikipedia. I discovered that Kim Richards played James’ sister in the show. That name seemed familiar but I couldn’t remember why. So then I researched her. She was Prudence in the show The Nanny and the Professor, which I also loved when I was a really little kid. It turns out that Richards also was one of the original members of the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which is a show that I have never seen. The interconnectedness of knowledge and information would be an interesting premise for a blog called “Rabbit Hole” in which the author described their wanderings around the Internet that happen simply by clicking links and seeing where they end up.

Interconnectedness of knowledge, TV shows about high school, information archives. I get to think about all the fun things.

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