This article presents the methodology and initial results from qualitative research into the usage and communication of digital information. It considers the motivation for the research and the methodologies adopted, including Contextual Design and Cultural Probes. The article describes the preliminary studies conducted to test the approach, highlighting the strengths and limitations of the techniques applied. Finally, it outlines proposals for refinement in subsequent iterations and the future research activities planned. The research is carried out as part of the Planets (Preservation and Long-term Access through NETworked Services) project.
As the digital evolution becomes infused into everyday life, the ways in which society communicates and uses information are changing. New processes are emerging that were inconceivable in a solely analogue world. National libraries and archives, as the custodians of a society's information, have the responsibility to safeguard these records and to provide sustained access to digital cultural and scientific knowledge. If these organisations are to fulfil these responsibilities, as a community of practitioners we must understand the nature of new communication and usage processes, both to ensure the appraisal process captures the right material and to guarantee that the new kinds of emerging working procedures are supported by the institutions.