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Making Secret(s): The Infrastructure of Classified Information


This dissertation defines and analyzes the infrastructure of classified information including the sites, systems, objects and discourses that enable the creation, maintenance, management and destruction of classified information. Seeking to situate classified information as something other than a mere absence of information or an impediment to knowledge, this dissertation focuses on what kinds of records, documents, evidence and knowledge are created through the daily practices of official secrecy at the federal level. The increasing complexity of overlapping technical infrastructures and organizational standards requires thinking about records infrastructurally, re-framing individual documents as systems, if we are to begin thinking of future use and access.

This dissertation examines records within the infrastructure of classified information by contextualizing the need for research into these records as objects of great complexity that eschew easy distinctions between open and closed. It utilizes a research framework oriented around four elements: Standards, Economies, Rupture and Culture. Using methods from infrastructure studies, archival studies and critical discourse analysis, it analyzes the field of creation within socio-technical systems and identifies materiality as a matter of paramount importance for the maintenance of evidential value within overlapping systems of trust.

This dissertation illustrates the paucity of nuanced understandings of networked records in federal agencies and exposes a number of areas for further research and challenges for those who work in archival studies and information policy. This dissertation finds that a vital rethinking of the role of archival work and thinking could lead to an integration of archival processes into daily government work instead of traditional modes of custodial transfer.

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