Disorder: Vocabularies of hoarding in personal digital archiving practices

Anna Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The image of the “digital hoarder,” buried under the disorganized turmoil created by the volume of his digital possessions, has become an increasingly popular way for individuals to describe their everyday digital collecting habits. This article argues that such self-characterization offers valuable insights into the psychologies of personal archiving practices. It examines the ways in which hoarding can expose and interrogate assumptions and biases about the act of organization, and traces an emergent cultural attitude toward hoarding, not as indiscriminate and disorganized accumulation, but rather as a struggle to sculpt a sense of self and purpose through one’s possessions. It then considers how “digital hoarding,” as a subculture of recordkeeping, can inform our understanding of how and why digital personal archives are shaped and maintained. A deeper understanding of hoarding, and of record creators’ self-defined analogues between hoarding and their digital personal information management practices, can benefit endeavours to educate the public about personal digital records management, by encouraging archivists to take into account more fully the organic ways in which individual organizational practices have developed. In these ways, this article seeks to balance archival outreach efforts with what the digital public can teach the archival profession about itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-134
Number of pages20
Issue number78
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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