Electronic Records Research 1997: Resource Materials
Compilation Copyright, Archives & Museum Informatics 1998
Article Copyright, Author
WHEN IS A COMPLETE RECORD CREATED IN THE ELECTRONIC ENVIRONMENT?
The necessary and sufficient elements of intellectual form for a traditional textual record to be complete are:
a. date (time and place)
b. superscription or attestation (name or signature of author)
c. inscription (name of addressee)
d. disposition (action)
The necessary and sufficient elements of intellectual form for traditional non-textual records to be complete are:
b. superscription or attestation
d. title and/or subject (identification of content)
e. disposition (the image, the graphic, the numerals, etc.)
PROPOSITION: for any electronic record to be complete, elements of intellectual form comparable to those required for traditional records are necessary, but they might not be sufficient.
TEXTUAL RECORDS IN ELECTRONIC FORM
The record must have a date, because the mention of the time and place of the record's creation captures the relationship between its author/writer and the fact/act in question, and this relationship becomes something the record talks about. With traditional records, the date is usually included in the record when its compilation begins, and appears on the top or bottom of the record. With electronic records, the date is usually automatically added by the electronic system to electronic messages, when these pass through the buffer, that is, after their compilation is concluded and the transmission command has been given. The date appears on the first line of the header, and includes the time of receipt of the message in addition to that of delivery, but does not include the place. With other electronic applications, the time is added by the system if this has the ability to control the "version" of the documents moved through it, or is included by the author/originator when the document is finished.
Therefore, with electronic records, the chronological date must include the time of transmission (to an internal and/or external addressee) and time of receipt. Moreover, the topical date (the mention of the place where the document is made and/or from where it is transmitted) is also necessary for a record to be complete.
b. superscription or attestation
The record must include the name of the author, because this element assigns responsibility for its content. With traditional records, the name of the author may appear in the letterhead (entitling), in the initial wording of the text (superscription), and/or at the bottom of the document as a signature, a symbol, or a signet (attestation). The signature or its equivalent attests that the record is adequate, and this attestation becomes the most important fact about the record. With electronic records, the name of the person releasing the record (not necessarily its author) is usually automatically added by the electronic system to messages after their compilation is concluded and the transmission command has been given. Any electronic record system can only automatically include among the intellectual elements of form the electronic address from which a message is sent. This address might be that of the author/writer of the message, or of its originator (be this person aware or not of it). Juridically, the person from whose address the message is sent is its author and writer, unless an attestation is attached to the record that would unequivocally demonstrate who its author/writer is, such as an electronic seal. The subscription (that is, the mention of the name of the author/writer at the end of the record) is not to be considered an attestation, because anyone could type any name. While the name of the person from whose address the record is sent, by automatically appearing on the header, carries with itself some authority, and therefore can be compared with an entitling or letterhead, it can never have an attestation function.
Therefore, with electronic records, the attestation of the author and an entitling showing the name of the originator are necessary for completeness. (If security is such that nobody other than the electronic address holder, that is, the originator, can have access to that address for sending messages, then the entitling does acquire a superscription function, but never an attestation function).
The record must include the name of the addressee, because it needs to be manifested, that is, transmitted or intended for transmission to some person in order to come into existence. With traditional records, the name of the addressee is usually expressed in the initial part of the record, whereas the names of those to whom the record is copied (receivers) is expressed in a separate section, usually at the end. With electronic records, the name of the addressee(s) is usually included in the header of electronic messages as well as the names of the receivers. However, when a message is forwarded to a list of addressees and/or receivers that resides in the electronic system, such list may not appear in the header of the record.
Therefore, with electronic records, the name of all addressees and receivers must be included for completeness, making sure that the two groups are formally distinguished. (While the names of the addressees need to be in the body of the record, that is, constitute an intrinsic element of form, the names of the receivers can simply be linked to the record and constitute an extrinsic element of form, which would fall into the category "annotations").
The record must include the disposition, that is, the expression of the will or judgement of the author, because this is the reason why the record is created in the first place. With traditional records, the disposition is usually introduced by a verb able to communicate the nature of the action and the function of the record. With electronic records, there is no difference.
Therefore, with electronic records, a message expressive of the will or judgement of the author is necessary for completeness.
NON-TEXTUAL RECORDS IN ELECTRONIC FORM
As with textual records in electronic form, chronological and topical dates are necessary for a non-textual record in electronic form to be complete.
b. superscription or attestation
As with textual records in electronic form, both an entitling and the attestation of the author are necessary for a non-textual record in electronic form to be complete.
As with textual records in electronic form, the name of all addressees must be included in each non-textual record in electronic form for it to be complete, while the names of the receivers need only to be linked to it.
d. title and/or subject
The record must include a title, providing its name, and/or a subject, describing its content. The title or the subject should include the date of the event, fact, or act represented, if different from the date of the record. While traditional non-textual records do not always have a title or subject, non-textual records in electronic form, just like the textual ones, always include a one line title (which is usually called "file name") that is often the subject of the record. This is not sufficient for either textual or non-textual records.
Therefore, with both textual and non-textual electronic records, a title and/or subject that properly describe the record and its matter are necessary for completeness.
With non-textual records, the disposition is represented by the graphics or images contained in the record.
All complete electronic records, whether textual or non-textual, must include the following elements of intellectual form:
1. Chronological date (of both transmission and receipt)
2. Topical date
3. Entitling (originating address)
4. Attestation (name of author/writer)
6. Receivers (name of copied persons)
7. Title or subject
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