Human Security Informatics, Global Grand Challenges and Digital Curation

  • Anne J. Gilliland University of California, Los Angeles
  • James Lowry Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies


This paper argues that addressing humanitarian issues and concerns about social and societal inequities that are integral to many societal grand challenges needs to become a concerted and sustained focus of digital curation. It proposes a new framing emanating out of the archival and record-keeping community – Human Security Informatics (HSI) – for human and humanitarian-centered rather than data, artifact or research-centered digital curation research and development. Human security is proposed as a new concept that promotes the protection and advancement of individuals and communities. It prioritizes individual agency and rights, and human-centered and multidisciplinary approaches that support democratization, transparency and accountability in trans- and supra-national governance and policy-making. Within this ethos, HSI specifically targets data, documentary, record-keeping and other accountability and evidentiary components of societal grand challenges. In so doing it necessarily highlights curation grand challenges, and demands the reorientation of some fundamental assumptions of digital curation relating to technological, economic and policy infrastructure priorities and standards, trust, scale, universality and content-centricity. To illustrate its argument, two research endeavors are discussed. The first is an Archival Education and Research Initiative (AERI) study that analyzed six areas of societal grand challenges and identified key, and often overlooked, areas where HSI could and should contribute. The analysis also surfaced grand challenges facing the digital curation community itself, many with particular applicability to digital curation capacity, processes and priorities in bureaucratic archives. The second is the Refugee Rights in Records (R3) Project, an example of wide-ranging HSI research that is focused on data, social media content and record-keeping, as well as on individual human rights in and to records and documentation. In both examples the paper identifies several specific areas of relevance to digital curation where an HSI approach would be appropriate.

Author Biographies

Anne J. Gilliland, University of California, Los Angeles

Professor and Associate Dean for Information Studies, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

James Lowry, Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies


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