Same Old Song and Dance
I'll be honest-- I'm so tired of superhero movies. I'm tired of origin stories, I'm tired of earth-threatening sky-beams, and I'm tired of after-credits sequences. After a decade of Marvel madness and DC disappointment, I feel like I've seen it all, and that there's really nothing new that I can gain from the genre. In a lot of ways, records management can feel the same. There are only so many variations of contracts, tax filings, and payroll forms you can look at without feeling like you've seen them all, right? This is a short, cut and dry blog post then. Records are boring, and there's nothing new to be learned, just like superhero movies. Let's pack it up, folks. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think this way-- until I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece. Some nine superhero movies were released the year Spider-verse came out, yet despite the crowded field, this film stuck with me beyond the original theater visit. Did I enjoy movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther? Sure-- I still listen to the Black Panther soundtrack as I eagerly await a new Kendrick Lamar album. But no superhero film has ever altered the way I view the medium as much as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did.
A New Point of View
The movie is visually stunning. Every frame looks like a page out of a comic book, with exaggerated action and expressive faces. Unique techniques were used to set the movie apart. Certain panels were discolored to give the impression of a bad print job on a cheap, pulpy paper, and frame rates were adjusted so that it almost feels as if you're flipping through the pages of a comic book. The sound design was amazing, combining an excellent soundtrack that drives forward the plot with a unique board of sound effects-- The Prowler's signature growl comes to mind. Essentially the movie made me rethink what superhero movies had the potential to be. While there's nothing wrong with finding a good formula and sticking to it like Marvel has done with their Extended Cinematic Universe, sometimes it's necessary to take a step back and question the limitations of what constitutes a superhero movie. Spider-Verse did, won critical acclaim, audience approval, and took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
I think this type of critical eye can be applied to records and record management. For so long, records have been those pieces of paper you put in the file cabinet and forget about until they're needed. But with the explosion of data, it's time for us to start rethinking what a record actually is!
With every action you take online, there's a digital footprint left behind; seems mundane enough. What if we looked at that footprint from a different point of view though? What if we treated that footprint as a record itself? This is the kind of paradigm shift that's becoming more and more necessary. The digital revolution has called on us to be better at compliance-- so why would we treat the unstructured data we create as anything but a record to maintain and manage?
As I said last week in our blog about dark data, "When people think about data, thoughts often jump to simple arrangements of 1's and 0's, but... data goes beyond that. It's unstructured, and is produced constantly." So why not leverage that? A good records management plan involves making sure that records are accurate, reliable, and easily recalled to be used as a knowledge or compliance resource. You can't very well do that if you're leaving 80% of data on the table.
This isn't to over-complicate things. Records management is arduous enough as it is. However, perhaps if we start treating records as being in two groups--"Big R" Records for the usual suspects like contracts and "little r" records for other non-traditional records-- it becomes more digestible to approach unstructured data as a record to be kept and managed.
I'm probably not offering much that seasoned records managers don't already know, but I do think the message is important for us all: with the rapid rate of change in the way we conduct business and our relationship with technology, we need to learn to take a step back and look at what may seem mundane from a different angle. The world of technology and business is always changing, and if you don't bother to reconsider what constitutes importance, you may find yourself missing out on valuable information. For the sake of non-traditional records and non-traditional films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I hope you don't deprive yourself of something life-changing.