What is a Record? Differing visions and perspectives


August 8, 2018 by elomas1

We all require access to original, authentic, usable records. However, a major issue facing society is the extent to which the concept of the digital record has been challenged and, furthermore, to what extent the digital evidence base is at risk because we do not have all the tools to maintain and sustain it through time. In business we use it to inform decision-making, conduct inquiries, hold individuals and organisations to account, to demonstrate transparency, to innovate, to research the past and build on the work of others. However, whilst in a paper world the nature of records was understood and familiar, in the digital world some contend that the nature of records is shifting.

Rethinking the digital evidence base raises many questions. McLeod and Lomas have debated and researched the notions of fixity for well over a decade. In 2008 McLeod discussed the concept of liquidity and its place and value in information delivery. In 2013 Lomas concluded that fixity can be problematic in a world which calls for flexibility and information repurposing but that digital records are fragile and prone to splintering, i.e. losing key components whether through design or accident.

At the links are three different visions and perspectives on the nature of a record that emerged from the network. The visions aim to spark debate, discussion, research and processes for the maintenance of the digital evidence base through time. They are aimed at students, academics in any discipline, and professionals. The overview discussion is at What is a record_discussion and then vision one at What is a Record_Vision01, vision two at What is a Record_Vision02 and vision three at What is a Record_Vision03.

We welcome new record visions and considerations so please do add comments to this blog or email these.

Full colour hard copies are available in wallets for anyone who wishes to distribute them and/or use them as a discussion tool. Email e.lomas@ucl.ac.uk if you would like to receive copies.

3 thoughts on “What is a Record? Differing visions and perspectives

  1. Thanks for these three visions; it helps to think about this important issue.
    Personally, I prefer the second one (“binding”) because it looks more as the traditional one and is not “flat”; it looks like the French translation of record “document engageant” which insists on the process of creation and on the relationship between the persons involved in the production and use of the record.
    I am not sure that, as you say, the nature of records is shifting in the digital world. I rather think that the form is shifting, not the nature. Therefore, I do not set liquidity against fixity. I think the form of fixity has changed and should be redefined.


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‘In the digital era what is the concept of the record and what implications are there for the usability of the future evidence base?’
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