Luciana Duranti

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Interests

Archival Diplomatics
Archival Theory
Digital Records

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

Diplomatic analysis
Archival Analysis

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Leveraging information governance and digital technologies for climate action : an inquiry into records retention and disposition in Canadian organizations (2022)

Deluge, flood, tsunami, and perfect storm describe the exponential increase in records, data, and information resulting from the expansion of ubiquitous computing. As a result of digital transformation, global storage capacity is expected to increase from 8 zettabytes in 2021 to around 16 zettabytes by 2025, leading to ominous predictions about the impact of information and communication technology not only on society, but on the environment. Archival science is the discipline guiding the management of records that document organizations’ activities and ensure accountability, transparency, and the protection of rights over time; the function of retention and disposition represents the phase of the records lifecycle during which decisions are made regarding how long records are kept, if at all. The practical inquiry research on which this dissertation is based investigated the current state of retention and disposition in the Canadian context, using data collected during 35 interviews at 26 organizations in 10 cities. The findings indicate that records managers and archivists are increasingly occupied with legacy paper records and often lack the resources to fully address the lifecycle management of digital materials, while information technologists are replacing ground they’ve lost in network administration with business analysis. As a result, there are increasing areas of overlap and competition between these professions. Participants who successfully responded to digital transformation leveraged integrated governance and cooperative projects to reach across organizational structures, clarify roles and responsibilities, and resolve internal politics. While continuing to use proven recordkeeping processes to manage the increasing amounts of paper pushed out of business areas due to reduced real estate and no-growth government initiatives, successful participants developed new skills to manage multiple, dispersed digital repositories using emergent and dynamic solutions, including the critical records approach; fast-track deletion; configuration, automation, and artificial intelligence; and storage consolidation, innovation, and elimination. Although the participants saw themselves as removed from climate action and were largely unaware of the roles they might play, given significant and embedded organizational support for climate action, the participants could more creatively leverage climate-conscious strategies to advance their mandates and mitigate the environmental impacts of digital transformation.

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"Between knowing and not knowing": privacy, transparency and digital records (2020)

As the world has become more digitized, with records datafied, aggregated, sold and resold by data brokers, and analyzed by algorithms, there has been hue and cry about privacy. Simultaneously, “transparency” has achieved almost talismanic status, invoked in contexts from privacy policies to open government movements as a means to achieve more accountable, democratic processes. As old fears of surveillance by Big Brother have yielded to multiveillance of individuals, communities and groups by a multitude of corporate and government entities, records, especially digital records, have become a site of conflict for questions about access, about how and by whom one is known, and about how to negotiate the space “between knowing and not knowing” (Han, 2015, 247).This dissertation examines the relationship between privacy and transparency in digital records from an archival perspective. Using a qualitative research design, it explored the legal, social, technical, and practice-oriented aspects of privacy and transparency with regards to digital records in Canadian and American archival practice. Doctrinal legal research provided an overview of the legal requirements. A critical interpretive synthesis of the literature revealed major lines-of-argument for both privacy and transparency. A case study examined the challenges of privacy and transparency in novel information technology, and the impact of data-centric, as opposed to records-based, approaches. Document analysis of privacy and access policies from a variety of archival institutions, and a focus group interview with archivists, records managers, and privacy officers, explored the lived reality of privacy and transparency. The findings show “privacy” and “transparency” function as umbrella constructs, encompassing practices, values, actions, and contextual factors, which can conflict or overlap. Indeed, the constructs can contradict themselves; transparency, for example, functions as metaphor for both visibility and invisibility depending upon context. Furthermore, this study found that recordkeeping practices are fundamental to enabling/constraining privacy and transparency outcomes. Finally, the study found that the transactional nature of legal and bureaucratic records is key to their transparency and accountability functions, but digitization has turned documents and non-legal records into records through mediation. The study concludes with a framework for making privacy and transparency decisions about digital records.

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Managing records as evidence and information in China in the context of cloud-based services (2019)

Placed against the backdrop of the increasing use of cloud-based services, this study aims to explore the management of electronic records as evidence and information in Chinese enterprises to support them in fulfilling regulatory and legal requirements as well as satisfying business needs. A qualitative case study method was adopted to achieve the research purpose. Two Chinese enterprises—one Sino-foreign joint venture and one state-owned enterprise—were studied through interviews and document analysis. The findings show that, in the two Chinese enterprises studied, the impact of cloud-based service on records management practice is very limited. As to the management of electronic records as evidence, due to various reasons, these two enterprises are prompted to either employ a trusted third party or convert them to paper format for preserving and demonstrating their evidentiary capacity. Despite many benefits offered by these two methods, the examination of their application in the two enterprises identifies some issues, for instance, the lack of procedures to verify that the authenticity of the data in the cloud is not compromised, the lack of archival methods for the management of the data deposited with the trusted third party, and the way the paper versions of the records is managed does not account for their “digital” past, all of which may affect the ability of the records in question to adequately fulfill their intended purpose. As it regards the management of records as information, both cases provided positive evidence of increasing efforts to exploit the informational content of records for daily operation and strategic planning. Moreover, for the state-owned enterprise, its records management work is largely, if not exclusively, focused on the informational value of records. This study suggests that there is some incoherence in the records management systems within the two enterprises, which is manifested in two aspects: the design of different records management programs to manage the evidentiary capacity and the informational value of records, and the absence of clear principles informing the management of records.

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Technological features of preservation systems that support the authenticity of digital records (2019)

This study aims to address the gap between the theoretical understanding of the authenticity of records and the implementation in digital archival preservation systems of technological features that can support the maintenance of that authenticity as the records move across space and through time. Using the lens of the archival method, a case study methodology was employed to conduct a series of ethnographic interviews, analysis of software, and review of supporting documentation at three sites. The sites chosen for the study represent three different geographic regions (Canada, Europe and United States), three different jurisdictional responsibilities (Metropolitan, Provincial and National), and three different software environments (one open source implementation, and two solutions using a mix of proprietary and open source tools in Linux and Microsoft Operating environments).The findings of this study suggest that the use of specific technological features can support the presumption of records authenticity throughout the process of moving records across space and through time. On the basis of this understanding, the findings of the case studies analysis were grouped into three specific functions: Transfer, in the course of which preservation institutions gather the records and the required identity and integrity metadata from the submitter; Ingest, in the course of which the institutions process the records and create or extract additional documentation regarding the identity and integrity of the records; and Maintenance, in the course of which the institutions safeguard the underlying bits, protect the networks upon which the records reside and implement processes to stay ahead of technological obsolescence.On the basis of the findings, this study has developed a model of the technological features for digital records observed across the case studies that support authenticity. This model, named by this study the TechSAR Model, is expressed in both UML Activity Models and detailed Use Cases. The TechSAR Model is not intended to be a stand-alone model; rather it is meant to supplement other existing digital preservation models by providing in-depth technical descriptions of services that perform activities supporting the authenticity of digital records in preservation systems that can be integrated into these existing models.

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Archival Law from the Trenches: The Impact of Archival Legislation on Records Management in Commonwealth Countries (2016)

Archival legislation in several Commonwealth countries provides the national archives with the statutory mandate to manage and preserve government records. The archival literature recognizes that archival legislation lags behind advances in technology and that it is often not robust enough to support the management and preservation of records. However, there is a lack of empirical research on how archival legislation is operationalized within specific socio-political, cultural, and juridical contexts, and on the perceptions of archivists and records managers about such operationalization. This dissertation addresses how the operationalization of archival legislation in the UK, Canada, and Singapore influences its effectiveness in the implementation of records management programs. The study takes into account the common law system based on an intergovernmental organization, the Commonwealth, as well as the different socio-political and cultural contexts of the countries. To explore the shared and varying views that archivists and records managers have on archival legislation, the study largely employs interpretivist perspectives and hermeneutic principles to examine interviews conducted with archivists and records managers, selected legislation, normative sources, and other documentary sources related to the enactment of archival legislation. The findings of this research suggest that archival legislation operates in the context of a patchwork constituted by other records-related legislation and normative sources, and that there are complexities involved in making amendments to such legislation. There are also organizational culture issues that stem from the institutional relationships between the national archives and government departments and the individual-level relationships of archivists and records managers. These issues can enable and constrain the delivery of a records management program. Additionally, the joint responsibilities in recordkeeping and record preservation held by the national archives and other departments that have an interest in information management result in a collaboration constraint and have contributed to a perceived lack of leadership on the part of the national archives in records management. The study concludes with recommendations for the decoupling of archival national institutions from national archival legislation, and for a comprehensive regulation of all aspects of records creation, maintenance, and preservation in the public sector.

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The Archival Trustworthiness of Digital Photographs in Social Media Platforms (2016)

No longer objects held in the hand, photographs are streams of bits, shared instantaneously across screens. From selfies to war reportage, the widespread use of smartphones for taking digital photographs and transmitting them to social media platforms is introducing new social practices, technological processes and legal contexts for record-making and recordkeeping, which impact the trustworthiness of digital photographs. This dissertation investigates current information practices by individuals for creating, managing, sharing and storing digital photographs. The research focuses on the factors that support or hinder the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of digital photographs. Using a qualitative research design, it explores how individuals’ activities and perceptions impact the value of digital photographs held in social media platforms as potential records to be acquired and preserved by archival institutions. A web-based survey reached social media members worldwide, and semi-structured interviews gathered in-depth data from a sample of survey participants. The research found that individuals are members of multiple social media platforms and are actively sharing large quantities of personal digital photographs with friends, social media communities and the open Web. It also revealed that individuals are adding contextual information to their digital photographs, before and after upload to social media platforms, for the purposes of communicating the intent of the photographer and the meaning of the photograph, and of participating in storytelling; however, the procedures for managing and storing user-generated content performed by social media services place the digital photographs and their associated metadata at significant risk of alteration and loss. The research found that the policies of social media services are buried within complex Terms of Use that few members read, introducing the potential for individuals to accumulate personal digital collections or archives online without understanding the extent of ownership, privacy, reuse, and future access. The research found that individuals’ attribute long-term value to the copies of digital photographs held on their personal devices prior to sharing online; whereas, the copies circulated in social media platforms are ephemeral, quickly consumed and then forgotten. Individuals have not made plans to delete, transfer or preserve collections of photographs held within social media services.

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Virtual Authenticity: Authenticity of Digital Records from Theory to Practice (2015)

The assessment and protection of the authenticity of digital records and data are recognized as fundamental issues for the records’ current use as well as for their long-term preservation and dissemination. Over the past twenty years, the matter of how to define, determine, and guarantee the endurance of authenticity has been the subject of research in all evidence-based or memory-based disciplines, including archival science, digital humanities, and law. Despite the wealth of past and current research findings, recommendations, and tools, authenticity is still discussed as an urgent problem for records and data created and maintained in traditional digital technologies as well as in emerging ones, such as cloud technologies, and embedded or wearable technologies. This study investigates contemporary ideas about authenticity of records and data, and practices employed by records professionals. Based on the archival idea that record authenticity is assessed by establishing its identity and proving its integrity, this study identifies indicators for authenticity and categorizes them as either social or technical mechanisms. Using a mixed methods design, it measures how records professionals ensure, manage, and continuously assess record authenticity and to what extent their practices reflect the results of available research. A web-based survey reached records professionals worldwide through professional listservs, and semi-structured interviews gathered further qualitative data from a sample drawn from the survey respondents.The results show that the standard archival definition of authenticity is not uniformly accepted or implemented in practice, and terms such as authenticity, reliability, integrity, and provenance are often used interchangeably and with little precision. They also reveal that experience plays a major role, in that professionals who are not required to authenticate records in the course of their work tend to have more confidence in technical mechanisms that those who are. The study concludes that most records professionals ensure authenticity by relying on social mechanisms but have greater confidence in technical mechanisms to authenticate records and data. In other words, records professionals, traditionally the trusted agents of record control (trustees), have frequently become the trustors, placing their trust in technology of which they may have little understanding and even less control.

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Pursuing the "usual and ordinary course of business": an exploratory study of the role of recordkeeping standards in the use of records as evidence in Canada (2014)

Recordkeeping standards are intended to offer guidance and recommendations for the requirements of a sound and effective records management program. One of the uses of recordkeeping standards may be to help organizations ensure the trustworthiness of records in the event that an organization must present records for consideration as evidence in court. No empirical study has previously been conducted, however, to determine if standards provide suitable guidance about the relationship between recordkeeping principles and legal compliance. Therefore, no assessment has yet been made of whether standards contain sufficient or appropriate guidance to help organizations meet their obligations for the creation and management of legally admissible records. This dissertation addresses the nexus between recordkeeping standards and the admissibility of business records as evidence. The study uses case law from British Columbia and Ontario as a basis for comparing admissibility criteria in a selection of relevant cases against the content of a selection of relevant recordkeeping standards. The study aims to determine if the standards examined provide adequate recordkeeping guidance to help an organization support legal compliance with the criteria for admissibility identified. As an exploratory study, this research also presents an innovative model for considering the suitability and applicability of recordkeeping standards, particularly in relation to the legal obligations of an organization for records creation and management. The findings of this research show that the act of sound and structured recordkeeping helps an organization increase the likelihood that its business records will be admitted as evidence, but that standards play a very small part in actual decisions about admissibility. Case law from British Columbia and Ontario reveals that, in order to convince a judge that a business record is trustworthy, counsel needs to be able to demonstrate the existence of, and consistent application of, accurate and up-to-date recordkeeping documentation. The study offers recommendations on how recordkeeping standards could be strengthened so that they provide more robust and effective guidance about recordkeeping practices and the creation of records-related documentation, most notably in relation to legal issues associated with the admissibility of evidence.

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The nature of record and the information management crisis in the government of Canada: a grounded theory study (2013)

Information is considered by the Government of Canada its “lifeblood” and its management is regulated by both law and government policy. Being part of information management, records and their management are required to facilitate “accountability, transparency, and collaboration”, including “access to information and records”. The right to access government records is granted by the Canadian Access to Information Act, which, since 1985, has been the main mechanism for the public to inquiry about the government’s conduct and decision-making. The Office of the Information Commissioner was established to monitor the administration of the Act, including assessing government institutions’ performances under the Act. In 2009, the Office reported that almost 60% of the institutions it assessed were rated with a below-average performance, based primarily on their delay in releasing requested records. The Office thus concluded that “The poor performance shown by institutions is symptomatic of what has become a major information management crisis”.This information management crisis motivated the present study, which aimed at finding explanations for it. Within the framework of the grounded theory methodology, data were collected from thirty government departments, including publications, emails, site observations, notes of conversations/teleconferences, and internal records released by Access to Information requests. These field data, along with relevant literature, were coded, memoed, and constantly compared for formulating the explanations, or discovering the substantive theory. At the center of the theory lies the core variable record nature, which underlies ninety six concepts and the hypotheses based on the concepts. According to the theory, when the understanding of record nature is incomplete, the management of records is ineffective and unable to deliver any concrete results, causing in departments the marginalization of the records management function, the disappearance of records, and ultimately, the inability to perform basic yet critical tasks in supporting government operation and accountability, that is, the information management crisis.The study contributes to archival science in general, and to records management in particular, both theoretically and methodologically. It specifies the concept of record nature, clarifies popular misconceptions, elaborates on records management principles, and offers a records management work model conforming to the generated theory.

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Function-based records classification systems : an exploratory study of records management practices in central banks (2009)

Records management and archival theory recommends that records classification, as a means to identify and organize the records made or received in the course of business, should be based on an analysis of the records creators’ functions and activities and reflect them. However, the purpose of classification, the meaning of the term function, and the methodology for conducting a business analysis are not clearly explained in the relevant literature. Additionally, no studies of actual applications of the functional approach to records classification in real organizational settings exist.This dissertation addresses the question of how the concept of function and the functional approach to records classification are understood by those who are responsible for the development and implementation of records classification systems as well as by the users of such systems. In order to contribute insights that can enrich the theory and methodology of records classification, an empirical, interpretivist research design, based on an initial survey of potential study subjects and a multiple-case study research, was conducted in four selected central banks in Europe and North America. One of the selection criteria was that the organizational cultures of the case study sites had to be as heterogeneous as possible.Findings showed that the meanings of function, functional approach, and even classification are subject to various interpretations, that classification developers find functional methodologies confusing, and that users do not usually appreciate the outcomes of their efforts. Furthermore, because the approach to classification was not always consistent with the nature of the records, some of the classification systems examined did not adequately serve either records management or business-related purposes. The research also provided an explanation of the relationship between organizational culture and the understanding of both records management and business processes.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Unearthing archives: an examination of documents generated in the course of archeological fieldwork (2012)

Archaeology is a science that destroys the very evidence it wishes to study. Archaeologists must therefore clearly document all stages of their work. In Canada, legislation dictates that all artefacts recovered from archaeological activity must be deposited in an archaeological repository. In most cases only copies of a final report are required to be submitted to the provincial government department responsible for archaeology. This thesis sought to discover what happens to the documents generated from archaeological activity and whether they are of value to archaeologists. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and surveys, and a review of current literature on archaeological practice. It was found that archaeologists place a high value on the documents they generate during an archaeological project and wish that they be kept in perpetuity; however, a lack of recordkeeping standards and of a relationship based on trust between archaeologists and archaeological repositories has led to poor record keeping practices amongst archaeologists in both academic and consulting environments and few transfers to repositories. The few documents that are transferred to repositories are rarely processed according to archival methodology for preservation and they are not easily accessible to researchers or the public. Thus, this thesis is concluded by a series of recommendations aimed to ensure that the documentary by-products of archaeological activity be maintained and preserved as reliable and authentic evidence of the projects to which they relate.

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