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Virtual authenticity : authenticity of digital records from theory to practice Rogers, Corinne

Abstract

The assessment and protection of the authenticity of digital records and data are recognized as fundamental issues for the records’ current use as well as for their long-term preservation and dissemination. Over the past twenty years, the matter of how to define, determine, and guarantee the endurance of authenticity has been the subject of research in all evidence-based or memory-based disciplines, including archival science, digital humanities, and law. Despite the wealth of past and current research findings, recommendations, and tools, authenticity is still discussed as an urgent problem for records and data created and maintained in traditional digital technologies as well as in emerging ones, such as cloud technologies, and embedded or wearable technologies. This study investigates contemporary ideas about authenticity of records and data, and practices employed by records professionals. Based on the archival idea that record authenticity is assessed by establishing its identity and proving its integrity, this study identifies indicators for authenticity and categorizes them as either social or technical mechanisms. Using a mixed methods design, it measures how records professionals ensure, manage, and continuously assess record authenticity and to what extent their practices reflect the results of available research. A web-based survey reached records professionals worldwide through professional listservs, and semi-structured interviews gathered further qualitative data from a sample drawn from the survey respondents. The results show that the standard archival definition of authenticity is not uniformly accepted or implemented in practice, and terms such as authenticity, reliability, integrity, and provenance are often used interchangeably and with little precision. They also reveal that experience plays a major role, in that professionals who are not required to authenticate records in the course of their work tend to have more confidence in technical mechanisms that those who are. The study concludes that most records professionals ensure authenticity by relying on social mechanisms but have greater confidence in technical mechanisms to authenticate records and data. In other words, records professionals, traditionally the trusted agents of record control (trustees), have frequently become the trustors, placing their trust in technology of which they may have little understanding and even less control.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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