n.the quality of being a record; the state of having the characteristics of a record Bearman 1993a, 679Thus the basis for the court ruling is identical to the reasoning employed by archivists worldwide (outside the U.S. federal government) in the past few years: structural and contextual data, in addition to the content of messages, are crucial to “recordness,” and “archiving” without capturing such critical evidence is equivalent to destroying the record.Brothman 2002, 341The essentialist, high modernist notion of transcendent “recordness” creates a hierarchy of difference in which evidence for records utterly determines—fixes—the nature of the evidence in records; it privileges external over internal criticism. It perpetuates the belief in the sovereign control of unchanging documentary form and initial context—what some archivists have come to call metadata—over a document’s latently untameable evidential content. “Recordness” is the record-keeping community’s attempt to archive the meaning of “record” for once and for all time. In deconstructive language, this term represents archives’ version of logocentricity. Efforts to capture the true meaning of “recordness” recapitulate in themselves methodological projects to construct the perfect record-keeping system.Boles 2005, 85Much of the New Paradigm writing has been directed at taking standards of “recordness” as archivists understand them in the paper environment and attempting to determine if these apply in the electronic world, or if different standards are needed to define a credible electronic record.Sternfeld 2011, 549In other words, a record retains its “recordness” by preserving the context surrounding its creation and transactional history; it embodies more than the information contained within its documentary form.Williams 2013, 14Such a definition excludes such things as diaries, maps, data in databases, information and most nontextual material, as these were not produced as a result of transactions or activities and do not therefore possess the attributes necessary for ‘recordness’. It also disregards any archival records not maintained by their creating body.Gilliland 2014a, 170While diplomatics looks at individual, document-like objects and thus requires a close delineation of the physical and intellectual parameters of those objects, archival science examines records in their aggregates and draws heavily upon different kinds of contexts to define both the scope of the record aggregate and its “recordness.”
The definition of recordness, as with the definition of record, changes according to purpose, law, and context, yet there are some features that most archivists agree are defining features of a record: a record preserves the content of some human action or activity, its content is fixed, and it encompasses at least some of the context needed to make it comprehensible beyond itself. However, meaning is pliable in both the content and the definition of a record. Especially with regard to electronic records, for example, fixity is more a property of ensuring that a record does not change over time after capture by an archives rather than the property that a record (say, in the form of a database or a webpage) does not change during its active use.