Scholars and members of the public rely on records (e.g. birth/death certificates, census and court records) as the evidence base for research; so too do policy-makers and those conducting inquiries. They all require access to original, authentic, usable records. However, a major issue facing society is the extent to which the digital evidence base is at risk because the concept of the digital record has been challenged.

In the digital world the record comprises the granular objects that are scattered yet linked e.g. chains of emails or tweets. Concepts commonly accepted as defining a paper record (originality, unchanging authenticity, contextualised evidence) are highly conflicted and under threat. They are being replaced by uncertainty, mutability and the notion of liquidity. The term record is “archaically physical” – “the record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital” [1]. Other complex issues surround the interrogation of evidential digital records. Many copies may exist with unclear authorship or the definitive original may disappear into a seemingly infinite cyberspace. If there are no ‘original’ records in the digital space what does this mean for the future evidence base?

It’s within this context that this new network will bring together practitioners, academics and others to explore the nature of the DNA of a digital record and work towards a new conceptualisation. Through a series of events – two workshops, two crowd-sourcing activities and a final witness seminar style event – the network will identify the key challenges for ensuring the future usability of the digital records evidence base and propose a research agenda to address the challenges. The network is international and multidisciplinary and will bring together different experts and stakeholders, using their knowledge and experience of creating, acquiring, storing, preserving, providing access to and/or using digital records. From creators to users they will include policy makers, decision makers, records and archives academics and practitioners, computer scientists, IT and information systems experts in digital forensics and e-discovery, lawyers, librarians, historians, arts and social scientists, scientists, independent researchers, genealogists and the public. They will provide different perspectives and facilitate effective collaboration to progress digital records research theory and practice. Participants from any community and any location will be able to contribute to the network through the crowd-sourcing activities.

This website will be used during the 1 year project to share outputs from each event, to gather comments and make available two key outputs – a visualization of the digital record DNA and a proposed research agenda – published under a CC-BY-SA licence.

1 Keen, A. (2007). The cult of the amateur. Nicholas Brealey. pp. 23-24

‘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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