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hen we work with digital objects we
want to know they are what they
purport to be and that they are complete
and have not been altered or corrupted.These two
concepts are encapsulated in the terms Authenticity
and Integrity. If the authenticity and integrity of a
digital object cannot be established questions arise as
to its genuineness and utility. As digital objects are
more easily altered and corrupted than say paper
documents and records, creators and preservers often
find it challenging to demonstrate their authenticity.
As digital objects that lack authenticity and integrity
have limited value as evidence or as an information
resource. If this is the case what are the require-
ments of authenticity and integrity functionality and
what can be done to ensure that they are present in
digital objects or in the systems that maintain them?
The Barcelona DigiCULT Forum began its
examination of the organisational and technological
issues related to authenticity and integrity with
consideration of the diverse perceptions of authenti-
city held by creators, preservers and users of digital
information and objects. Underpinning authenticity
and integrity and their preservation over time are the
concepts of fixity, stabilisation, trust, and the require-
ments of custodians and users. The discussants were
not alone in finding it difficult to determine what
needs to be protected in order to maintain authenti-
city and integrity over time, as other examinations of
the issue have reached the same conclusion. As an
authentic digital object is one whose genuineness
can be assumed on the basis of one or more of the
following: mode, form, state of transmission, and
manner of preservation and custody. The question
was raised of whether authenticity can be considered
from a number of different perspectives such as those
of the different categories of user needs. The needs
and requirements of different types of users vary and
may even be dependent upon types of digital objects
they encounter and how they encounter them.The
different types of digital objects, including records,
online journals, databases, audio-visual materials each
appear on the surface to have their own require-
ments in relation to authenticity. Although there has
been much research into the issue of authenticity
there remains disagreement as to whether all digital
objects and their users could be treated in similar
ways or whether object-sensitive and user-contextua-
lised solutions were required.
In this regard problems that required further inve-
stigation included:
Could general characteristics of authenticity be
identified that would apply to all digital objects?
Or do different types of digital objects, record
keeping procedures and digital object creation
practices, alongside the variety of institutional
requirements mean that digital object preservation
would require a range of mechanisms for enabling
user and preservers to ascertain the authenticity of
DigiCULT 7
By Seamus Ross
Beeld en Geluid