A document (noun) is a piece of information that one can use for communicating something. In most of the cases it is a paper, that contains information in the form of ink marks. But nowadays documents can be digital as well.

To document (verb) means to produce an object by collecting and representing information.

Different sorts of documents

Everyday use

What most people understand, when they speak of a document one can see from the connotations and denotations that appear in a search for document. From these usages, one can infer the following typical connotations:

  • Writing that provides information (especially information of an official nature)
  • Anything serving as a representation of a person's thinking by means of symbolic marks
  • A written account of ownership or obligation
  • To record in detail; "The parents documented every step of their child's development"
  • A digital file in a particular format
  • To support or supply with references; "Can you document your claims?"
  • An artifact that meets a legal notion of document for purposes of discovery in litigation

Document life cycle management technology

Technology to manage documents has developed with documents themselves. Of particular importances are practices concerning the preservation, archival, destruction and management of documents. These together are called the "document life cycle"

  • Physical preservation: Documents in both traditional physical forms and in digital physical forms such as magnetic media must be physically preserved. This aspect of document management deals with such issues as the aging of paper (the innovation of acid-free paper is an advance in preservation) and obsolescence of magnetic media.
  • Storage: This aspect includes management of scarce resources such as shelf space and disk space, and associated technologies such as optimal space utilization. Modern libraries such as the University of Nevada and the University of Michigan often use complex space-saving technologies such as robotic retrieval systems for stacks and moving bookshelves. In the digital realm, the entire discipline of compression technologies can be viewed as concerned with the storage of documents.
  • Cultural Preservation: This function, traditionally ascribed to librarians involves the selection, arrangement and storage of documents in safe places. The importance of this part of document life cycle management can be seen in the impact of historical events such as the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Today, library and information science has developed into an important academic discipline.
  • Bibliometrics: This aspect of document management involves functions of indexing, generating statistics and taxonomies, and improving the usability of large collections of documents. The modern history of this management technology dates back to Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System. Today, the science of bibliometrics is largely concerned with managing the impact of electronic technologies. This aspect must also deal with ISBN numbers, Library of Congress data and other standards.
  • Digital Content Management: The explosion of digital content has resulted in technologies to manage large collections of digital information generated by organizations. Such systems must manage access control and privileges, multiple electronic format, interface with printing infrastructures and enable collaborative workflows around documents.
  • Digital-Physical Interaction Management: As long as both paper and digital documents continue to have value, the modern management technologies to manage their interaction will continue. Key to this management is the management of large scale and systematic scanning of physical documents (such as the Google book scanning project).
  • Destruction: With the increased cost of identity theft, corporate scandals and privacy concerns, the destruction of both paper and electronic documents has become increasingly important to manage. Technologies such as shredders play a role, as do verifiable processes of destruction of electronic documents to ensure compliance with privacy laws.
  • Security: Shannon's information theory has led to an entire discipline that concerns itself with the security of documents, and associated technologies such as encryption, as well as more physical security features such as watermarks and making currency documents safe from counterfeiting.
  • Transportation: The entire postal system, as well as modern courier systems, is largely built on the need to move documents physically from one location to the other.

Related pages


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