¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 AIC’s 2015 (revised 2016) report, Charting the Digital Landscape of the Conservation Profession (aka “Charting”), documents the revolutionary impact digital tools and processes have had on the field of conservation, and the myriad other ways in which the field has yet to adapt sufficiently to new digital models. Among those, it highlights the AIC’s Guidelines for Practice, part of its Code of Ethics, for attention, noting
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 … (they) were last updated in 2008 and do not align with current policies and practices that exist in the cultural heritage community. In particular, the Guidelines that address disclosure, confidentiality, documentation, and preservation of documentation are at odds with the principles of transparency, collaboration, and sharing necessary for effective use of information in the online environment.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Charting also notes that the Guidelines have historically been written by a single task force, and approved by the AIC Board of Directors, and recommends that “the process of creating and upgrading these policies also needs to be changed to be more transparent and to incorporate input and review from a broader community,” and that the Guidelines undergo review at more frequent intervals.
Our Charge and Challenge
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 “Digital” in conservation means many things just as it does in the rest of the world, but most critically, it means both tools (software, hardware of all kinds) and practices. Digital is the camera that’s now so cheap and small that it’s a tiny part of the phone that fits in your pocket and works wherever you go; and Digital is the selfie, the photo of oneself that exists as a relentless cultural meme because we can now talk to each other in pictures, in seconds, at great distances, and in arbitrarily large groups.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Digital is IR imaging used in art authentication; and Digital is sending those images to an email list of collaborators, colleagues, and strangers around the world for pre-publication commentary and discussion. Digital makes our work stronger in both ways, and our challenge is to bring those benefits to our Ethics development process.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 There is a poetic parallelism in the twofold nature of Charting’s recommendations that we both update the guidelines to acknowledge the digital world, and that we update the mechanisms by which we write the Guidelines. This is now a two-way street–the Guidelines have to be made better, to acknowledge Digital; but we will also use Digital’s advancements in communications, collaboration, commentary, and dissent to improve our Ethics process, and in so doing make all our ethical guidelines, not just those related to technology, stronger.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Charting wisely asks us first to revise the process by which we develop our ethical guidelines, perhaps understanding that new guidelines will flow more rapidly from an accelerated, democratized process. In developing this process, we will ask ourselves:
- ¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 1
- By what technological means will we ensure that different voices and perspectives from within the community and without (external review; allied communities) are included rather than excluded, as technology often stratifies and segments?
- Can we take Charting’s demand that the Guidelines be reviewed more frequently to its logical conclusion, and make review continuous, to guarantee our ethical guidelines always keep pace with technological change?
- How will we ensure the necessary culture around the process, not just the tools, will persist and support this continuous work?
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Our body of professionals, tasked with developing this new process, will consider these questions and others in pursuit of ethical guidelines that derive their moral force from the community’s full, explicit agreement and commitment to them.