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Trust and context in cyberspace

Yeo, G; (2013) Trust and context in cyberspace. Archives and Records , 34 (2) 214 - 234. 10.1080/23257962.2013.825207. Green open access

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Every day we place trust or reliance on other people and on inanimate objects, but trust may be diminished in the world of information resources and technology. We are often told that information needs higher standards of verification in digital realms than in the paper world. Similarly, when we encounter digital records and archives we may be uncertain how far we can trust them. In the past, trust in records was said to be reinforced by trust in archivists and archival institutions. However, trust in professional experts and institutions is waning; notions of expert objectivity are increasingly challenged. This paper explores an idea proposed by David Weinberger, that ‘transparency is the new objectivity’. Where records are concerned, documentation of provenance and context forms a basis for enhancing their transparency and thus for evaluating their trustworthiness. Many commentators have expressed anxiety that, in digital environments where resources are reused and remixed at will, records may become decontextualized. But in computer science questions are now being asked about how data can be trusted and verified, and knowledge of their provenance is increasingly seen as a foundation for enabling trust. Many computer scientists argue that, while data should be reusable, each piece of data should carry evidence of its history and original contexts to help those who encounter it to judge its trustworthiness. Some researchers have set out to develop systems to capture and preserve information about data provenance. In the longer term, this research may help archivists meet the challenges of gathering and maintaining contextual information in the world of digital record-keeping. Methods of automatically harvesting certain kinds of contextual information are under investigation; automated solutions are likely to expedite what are currently time-consuming manual processes. However, merely being presented with information about provenance is not enough. Insofar as individuals or institutions supply us with that information, we have to decide how far we trust what those people or institutions tell us. There is still a place for expert voices, but experts cannot be seen as infallible providers of objective information.

Type: Article
Title: Trust and context in cyberspace
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/23257962.2013.825207
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23257962.2013.825207
Language: English
Additional information: © 2013 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted. Permission is granted subject to the terms of the License under which the work was published. Please check the License conditions for the work which you wish to reuse. Full and appropriate attribution must be given. This permission does not cover any third party copyrighted material which may appear in the work requested.
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1461162
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