October 15, 2003 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on October 15, 2003.
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: email@example.com
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A chance to read some of the latest thinking in France on "the document / the electronic document", and to participate in online discussions of same...
The STIC / Sciences et Technologies de l'Information division, of the CNRS / Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, has established a research group on "The Document". And, just published, a synthesis of the collective work of 50 researchers: and they are hoping to get some international discussion of this going online now, via a new email list --
"Document: Form, Sign and Medium, As Reformulated for
Electronic Documents. by Roger T. Pédauque. Article.
12 septembre 2003. Working paper."
"This paper presents group discussions taking place within multidisciplinary topical network 33 of the CNRS Information and Communication Science and Technology (STIC) Department. It attempts to clarify the concept of document in its transition to electronic form, based on research which tends to privilege form (as a material or immaterial object), sign (as meaningful object) or medium (as communication vector). Each of these terms reflects the radical transformations that are taking place. Their superposition stresses the importance of multidisciplinarity for a lucid and complete analysis of the concept and how it is changing."
"Very few scientific papers give a definition of document and even fewer discuss the definition... Many dictionaries, lists of standards and encyclopedias have definitions that are more designations or descriptions than a real reflection on the concept."
"From the Latin documentum giving the word roots in teaching (docere = to teach), to its marginalization by the more recent, more frequent but hardly more accurate term of «information», the concept appears to be commonly based on two functions: evidence (the «evidence» presented in courts or the elements of a case file) and information (a representation of the world or a testimony). For instance, contemporary archive science recognizes these two functions in stating that documents have «value as evidence» (of activity), which has a somewhat broader meaning than judicial «evidence», and «value as information», in the sense given above."
"The document was constructed as an object, whose most common material form is a sheet of paper, over a process that lasted for centuries mingling tools, knowledge and status. Over the last few decades with electronic documents, we have entered a new phase... [there has been a] loss of stability of the document as a material object and its transformation into a process constructed on request, which can undermine the trust placed in it."
"We make a distinction between:
"We will discuss each category using the same scheme:
"Definition 1: An electronic document is a data set organized in a stable structure associated with formatting rules to allow it to be read both by its designer and its readers...
"Definition 2: An electronic document is a text whose elements can potentially be analyzed by a knowledge system in view of its exploitation by a competent reader...
"Definition 3: An electronic document is a trace of social relations reconstructed by computer systems."
"...is it possible to envision a document theory making us better able to measure the present and future consequences of electronic documents?... It should be stressed that the opposition between paper and electronic versions is futile. Almost all current documents have existed in electronic form at one stage of their life and those that haven't risk being totally forgotten. Conversely, numerous electronic documents are printed at some point on a personal printer or a professional printer. What is important is therefore to have a better idea of the concept of document in general, whose electronic form is both revealing and a factor of evolution...
"A document may finally be nothing more than a contract between people whose anthropological (legibility-perception), intellectual (understanding-assimilation) and social (sociability-integration) properties may form the basis for part of their humanity, their capability to live together. In this perspective, the electronic form is only one way of multiplying and changing such contracts."
Indexing -- very useful, for exploring other papers by the group on these and associated topics -- click on the links for the "Documents" article, provided as follows --
-- all of the above being nimble thinking, of a "French" approach perhaps usefully compared, and contrasted, to approaches to the same "document" & "documentation" topic(s) which have appeared elsewhere...
* A Note *
As formats and uses of digital technology change, and develop, it does seem useful to try at least to establish a common understanding.
This week my local "video rental" shop switches all of its stock from VHS to DVD: to the delight of some, and the very great distress of others...
And, last week, the US state in which I happen to live elected, as Governor, a candidate who made use nearly exclusively of what his managers call "the entertainment media", in persuading the voters to elect him: no position "papers", no real "debates", no traceable in-depth discussions of issues on "news" programs, or in public appearances...
So, using just one of the many meanings of the term, per the above paper, how do we "document" what is happening to us?
If our old formats -- "old" by at most a few years, nowadays -- suddenly no longer work, are many of us in fact left without access? In the sheer rapidity of the information revolution, are we creating "documents" which in fact increasingly do not "document"?... because they cannot, having been replaced so recently by new technologies which no longer can reach them?
All of us possess "documents", now, stored on tapes or vinyl records or 5 1/4 inch or 3 1/2 inch floppy disks, or in old software and other formats, which no longer are able to serve the anthropological functional definitions -- also the intellectual and the social -- apparently offered in the above paper. Is there a problem developing, then? In our urge to "document", are we in fact losing our "documents"? The tree that fell unheard in the forest, did it fall?
And how are we "documenting" our anthropological and intellectual and social interactions, if "the entertainment media" now is doing that job? The interactive and cooperative and research and archival functions, of previous generations of media which have been charged with recording our "politics", seem less important, in "entertainment". The ephemera of the latest rock video or movie star gossip seem ill-suited for conveying, much less archiving, our deepest political thoughts. And yet Governor Schwarzenegger's managers now proudly proclaim their very effective use of "the entertainment media", to circumvent more traditional "document" formats and approaches, and better reach the voters and win the election...
So if there truly is an underlying significance to "document" and to the process of "documentation", let it reveal itself quickly, then. Before the newest information processes transfer our politics to "entertainment" formats, and our records to yet another vastly-improved medium which renders all our others useless, let us understand a little better the general direction in which all of this "documentation" is headed.
Jack Kessler, email@example.com
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search fyifrance), or http://firstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive) or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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