The information field has roots in libraries and other memory institutions on one hand, and in scientific communication on the other hand (Bawden and Robinson 2013). As such, research in the field has traditionally focused on information phenomena in libraries, academe, and industry. Since the 1990s, however, scholars have recognized the necessity of studying information phenomena outside of these institutions, in what have been christened “everyday” information contexts (Case and Given 2016). Still, most of this research has explored only information seeking. This topic is but one component of the information–communication chain, others of which include information creation, dissemination, organization, indexing, storage, use, and understanding (Robinson 2009, 2018). This special issue brings together recent work on everyday information phenomena in the components of organization and indexing, which can be encapsulated under the label of “documentation” (Day 2006). In this introduction, we reflect on the exigency of doing so.
Formal institutions can collect, document, and provide access to only so many materials; the materials are necessarily limited in number and type, and access to them is limited as well. This is due to the limits of space and time, budgetary restrictions, and the resultant need to employ knowledge organization systems and other standardized technologies to afford efficient access to information. But while such technologies make some information easier to see and find, they render other information invisible (Bowker and Star 1999). By necessity, then, institutions miss out on collections and modes of description that may nonetheless be culturally important, particularly to underserved groups, small subcultures, counter-cultural groups, and so on.
Given these limitations, it may not be surprising that we humans have begun to document in other places and ways, in what may be called the realm of the everyday. And it’s even less surprising when we consider that [End Page 489] we humans are organizing creatures by nature. We organize our cabinets, days, hobbies, social lives, families, groups, governments. Anything we can conceptualize, we organize. For this reason, at least two information scholars have suggested, seemingly independently, that our species be called Homo documentator (Briet  2006; López Yepes 1998). Today, well into the era of ubiquitous digital computing, the label seems even more deserved. All this is to say that documentation in and by formal institutions is but a piece of the full picture of human activities of documentation, and a shrinking one at that.
For this special issue, we invited examinations of the “everyday documentation” that is done outside formal libraries, archives, and museums. Such examinations can not only deepen our understanding of documentation and information phenomena but also begin to show how everyday documentation can and should inform institutional practice and technological developments. The word “should” in the previous sentence implies ethical force. Indeed, the study of everyday documentation brings to light a number of questions related to right action, justice, and the good. This is because, in part, processing such collections entails the exercise of freedom and discernment on the part of particular entities, possibly including members of indigenous, insider, or otherwise underprivileged communities or subcultures. Studying everyday documentation can help us understand these dynamics, opening a space for the critique of dominant institutions and showing where reform is needed (Grenersen 2012).
The articles in this special issue cover a variety of everyday documentation contexts, making both theoretical and empirical contributions. Among those articles whose contribution is primarily theoretical, we find discussions of film genres (Hider et al.), social digital curation (Sabharwal), time and space (Graf), and the everyday as a task domain (McKenzie and Davies). Among those articles whose contribution is primarily empirical, we find examinations of urban explorers’ documentation practices (Fulton), tribal-facial markings in Nigeria (Fadehan and Barber), real estate flyers as evidence of gentrification (Guerrero), and fiber art as a form of documentation (Carmen). Further, two articles bring to the fore intersections between formal institutions (in this case U.S. higher education) and the everyday; La Barre and Richardson present a study of a university collection of countercultural archival material, and Bryant describes the use of a bottom-up web-based resource as a locus for campus tree tours...