Information Carriers and Identification of Information Objects: An Ontological Approach

Martin Doerr, Yannis Tzitzikas

Even though library and archival practice, as well as Digital Preservation, have a long tradition in identifying information objects, the question of their precise identity under change of carrier or migration is still a riddle to science. The objective of this paper is to provide criteria for the unique identification of some important kinds of information objects, independent from the kind of carrier or specific encoding. Our approach is based on the idea that the substance of some kinds of information objects can completely be described in terms of discrete arrangements of finite numbers of known kinds of symbols, such as those implied by style guides for scientific journal submissions. Our theory is also useful for selecting or describing what has to be preserved. This is a fundamental problem since curators and archivists would like to formally record the decisions of what has to be preserved over time and to decide (or verify) whether a migration (transformation) preserves the intended information content. Furthermore, it is important for reasoning about the authenticity of digital objects, as well as for reducing the cost of digital preservation.

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