“Forever or Five Years”: Recordkeeping and Human Thriving


“Forever or Five Years”: Recordkeeping and Human Thriving


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Jeff Rothenberg wrote that, “[d]igital objects last forever – or five years, whichever comes first.” Rothenberg gives as his example a CD that contains the secrets to his fortune, and the challenges his grandchildren would face in even finding an appropriate disk-drive in 2045. Since Rothenberg’s article was first published in the mid-90s, digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become ever more entrenched, and the cycles of change and development ever faster. Archivists, specialists in recordkeeping, race to ensure the long-term trustworthiness, accessibility, and useability of data, records, and other digital objects that are designed with the expectation of obsolescence and ever-faster cycles. Doing so is critically important. Without trustworthy records, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to prove our rights, to hold bad actors accountable, to build on past research, and to maintain cultural heritage. In this talk, Dr. Hofman will explain how archival science’s ancient principles can improve our digital future, providing ways to examine new technologies and answer questions about trust, decision making, and power through the perspective of not just years, but centuries.

About the Author

Darra Hofman is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator (Master of Archives and Records Administration) in the School of Information at San José State University, San José California, USA. Dr. Hofman received her Ph.D. in library, archival, and information science from The University of British Columbia in 2020. She completed her M.L.I.S. from the University of Kentucky and her J.D. and B.A. (honors) from Arizona State University. Her research examines the intersection of archives, technology, and law, exploring how records can support human rights and human thriving.

Date of Event



Digital Curation, Records Management, Digital Preservation, Cultural Heritage


Archival Science | Communication Technology and New Media


1 streaming video file (45 min.) : digital, sound, color. Closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

“Forever or Five Years”: Recordkeeping and Human Thriving