Checksums Checksums!

In week 2 of MCPDM we were discussing Authenticity, Integrity and Reliability in regards to digital records. One of the key things which I took away from it is how information content becomes more important than form in the digital environment, due to the difficulty in maintaining access to old file formats. These were questions which we were then practically faced with in the afternoon lab. Using a Checksum calculator we compared the content of a number of different files. The results showed (as seen below) that the information which the files contained was the same for “1.a” and “1.b”, and for “2.a” and “2.b”, despite different formats and titles. This can be seen by how they share the same Checksum.

1.aMCPDM 41.b MCPDM 3

2.aMCPDM 2 2.bMCPDM 1

So what are the practical implications for information professionals? On the one hand Checksums seem a practical (and time saving) tool for a Record Manager in scoping out edited copies and degraded files.  On a more fundamental level it does seem to be a question of integrity. Checksums can signal that a file has not been edited since even small changes, such as upper case characters to lower case characters, completely change the sum. However, as discussed in the morning class, ‘Authenticity’ and ‘Reliability’ does not follow automatically. We struggled to confirm Authenticity (that the file is what it purports to be) since we were unsure of its purpose. The lack of information meant that we could not confidently say that the files were reliable, despite confirming some level of integrity. This shows that the wider context is essential for being able to confirm any of these essential qualities.

After seeing this difficulty, I look forward to learning more about how an appropriate and supportive context can be created for these types of records in the following weeks.

Also, Kate is really bossy and would not allow me to post this week’s blog unless I sent her the Checksum for the Word document containing these images.  She’s gone power mad! So here goes: CEA235CAF10FBBFBE5965DAD975C282F

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