Investigating the Roles and Requirements, Manifestations and Management of Metadata in the Creation of Reliable and Preservation of Authentic Electronic Entities Created by Dynamic, Interactive and Experiential Systems: Report on the Work and Findings of the Interpares 2 Description Cross Domain Group
Tennis, Joseph T.
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Metadata that is associated with either an information system or an information object for purposes of description, administration, legal requirements, technical functionality, use and usage, and preservation, plays a critical role in ensuring the creation, management, preservation and use and re-use of trustworthymaterials, including records. Recordkeeping1 metadata, of which one key type is archival description, plays a particularly important role in documenting the reliability and authenticity of records and recordkeeping systemsas well as the various contexts (legal-administrative, provenancial, procedural, documentary, and technical) within which records are created and kept as they move across space and time. In the digital environment, metadata is also the means by which it is possible to identify how record components – those constituent aspects of a digital record that may be managed, stored and used separately by the creator or the preserver – can be reassembled to generate an authentic copy of a record or reformulated per a user’s request as a customized output package.Issues relating to the creation, capture, management and preservation of adequate metadata are, therefore, integral to any research study addressing the reliability and authenticity of digital entities, regardless of the community, sector or institution within which they are being created. The InterPARES 2 Description Cross-Domain Group (DCD) examined the conceptualization, definitions, roles, and current functionality of metadata and archival description in terms of requirements generated by InterPARES 12. Because of the needs to communicate the work of InterPARES in a meaningful way across not only other disciplines, but also different archival traditions; to interface with, evaluate and inform existing standards, practices and other research projects; and to ensure interoperability across the three focus areas of InterPARES2, the Description Cross-Domain also addressed its research goals with reference to wider thinking about and developments in recordkeeping and metadata. InterPARES2 addressed not only records, however, but a range of digital information objects (referred to as “entities” by InterPARES 2, but not to be confused with the term “entities” as used in metadata and database applications) that are the products and by-products of government, scientific and artistic activities that are carried out using dynamic, interactive or experiential digital systems. The nature of these entities was determined through a diplomatic analysis undertaken as part of extensive case studies of digital systems that were conducted by the InterPARES 2 Focus Groups. This diplomatic analysis established whether the entities identified during the case studies were records, non-records that nevertheless raised important concerns relating to reliability and authenticity, or “potential records.” To be determined to be records, the entities had to meet the criteria outlined by archival theory – they had to have a fixed documentary format and stable content. It was not sufficient that they be considered to be or treated as records by the creator. “Potential records” is a new construct that indicates that a digital system has the potential to create records upon demand, but does not actually fix and set aside records in the normal course of business. The work of the Description Cross-Domain Group, therefore, addresses the metadata needs for all three categories of entities.Finally, since “metadata” as a term is used today so ubiquitously and in so many different ways by different communities, that it is in peril of losing any specificity, part of the work of the DCD sought to name and type categories of metadata. It also addressed incentives for creators to generate appropriate metadata, as well as issues associated with the retention, maintenance and eventual disposition of the metadata that aggregates around digital entities over time.
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