Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Wicked Problem of Documenting Counterinsurgencies: A case study of US province reports written during the Vietnam War
by Wilczek, Eliot, D.Bibl., Simmons College, 2017, 382; 10289406
Abstract (Summary)

Wicked problems are societal problems that are complex, vitally important, ill-defined, and whose resolution is based on political judgment. Using a historical case study, this dissertation aims to examine the relationship between how institutions understand and document wicked problems and how wicked problems can be understood as recordkeeping challenges. The case study focuses on the province report, a monthly narrative produced by US province advisory teams during the Vietnam War. A combination of historical research methods, recordkeeping research in the tradition of the modern diplomatic, and content analysis are used to investigate this case study.

This dissertation revolves around two core themes: 1) wicked problems as recordkeeping challenges and 2) institutional recordkeeping effectiveness. Within the first theme, findings demonstrate that: 1) creating thick description at scale is one of the fundamental challenges of describing and defining wicked problems; 2) individuals and recordkeeping rules come to the fore in shaping the content of institutional records in different circumstances; and 3) institutions use their recordkeeping practices to normalize wicked problems into familiar concepts. The second theme, institutional recordkeeping effectiveness, encapsulates findings that demonstrate: 1) the key role that thoughtful analysis and concise, efficient, and timely records creation play in documenting wicked problems; and 2) the risk to institutions that careful and thoughtful recordkeeping becomes a burdensome task.

The significant of this dissertation is its placement of archival and information science at the center of the effort to understand and address wicked problems by demonstrating how grappling with wicked problems is, to a great extent, a recordkeeping act. This dissertation also makes a significant contribution to the archival literature by framing organizational recordkeeping as a series of tradeoffs, compromises, and struggles. This framework can facilitate a richer understanding of the complexities that members of an organization face when documenting dynamic and multifaceted environments.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bastian, Jeannette
Commitee: Benoit, Gerald, Ortega, Stephen, Trace, Ciaran
School: Simmons College
Department: Library and Information Science
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Library science, Military history
Keywords: Recordkeeping, Records, Vietnam war, Wicked problems
Publication Number: 10289406
ISBN: 978-0-355-19768-6
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