What is a “Document? RIM Technology from Egyptian Ostraca to Modern Attachments

Presented by

Ken Withers, Deputy Director, The Sedona Conference

About this talk

Human history is defined by writing. “Prehistoric” literally means “before written records.” Throughout the centuries, people have recorded events, impressions, and beliefs using a variety of methods to affix images and symbols onto durable (if not permanent) media with the intention of communicating thoughts across time and distance. Ancient Egyptians scribbled shopping lists on pottery chards and memorialized international treaties on clay tablets. Mayans buried their aristocrats with amate. Mass-produced paper made the Song dynasty sing. A severe shortage of papyrus ushered in the European Dark Ages. Our concepts of culture and civilization are inextricably bound to our Records and Information Technology (RIM). Way back in the mid-20th Century, Marshall McLuhan observed that “the medium is the message,” and this is most apparent in the ways in which we’ve treated different forms of recorded communication – different media – as worthy of management or ephemeral, of having evidential value, of establishing legal claims or relationships, etc. However, in just our lifetimes, the basic concept of the “document” as a physical artifact has been upended, and we now have messages have no fixed physical embodiment and that change depending on the medium on which they are presented. This fundamentally challenges our way of thinking about the things we still call “documents” or “records,” from how we manage them to our laws of evidence. Join eDiscovery pioneer, law librarian, and amateur historian Ken Withers of The Sedona Conference for fast-paced hour, placing today’s challenges – and recent legal developments – into 3,500 years of human history.

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