Information Access Seminar

Names and Lives In the Cultural Record

Friday, October 7, 2011
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Clifford Lynch

Historically, cultural memory organizations — and particularly libraries — have taken some responsibility for managing names as part of their practices of bibliography and cataloging, and of managing the national cultural record. The explosive democratization of content creation and sharing, the generative nature of the internet environment, and new developments in scholarly communication all drive demands for new approaches to the management of names and name authority. Genealogists and historians have also been concerned with names and with the public records that accompany those names; we have seen debates about how much of an individual's life should be part of the public record and about how accessible this record should be, and we have also seen the emergence of enormous biographical databases, including Wikipedia. In the 20th century, we have seen the emergence of bibliometric techniques that offered new insight into the growth and evolution of knowledge, but this work has been hampered by very poor name management in the key corpora; as we enter the 21st century, both the potential contributions of these approaches and the problems of disambiguation have expanded. In my lecture, I'll survey these converging historical developments and propose a restructured set of roles and responsibilities for the management of names in the cultural context, as well as framing a few questions about public policy and social norms.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015