This page includes a selection of the scholarly literature on document and documentation theory, history and research. While the Document Academy does not recognize any rigid canon, the works referenced here are known and discussed by many scholars in neo-documentation. In addition to these works, an interested reader would do well to explore the Proceedings from the Document Academy, which publishes original research in document(ation) studies.
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These works are listed in chronological order, by the date of their original authorship.
Otlet, Paul. (1990). International organisation and communication of knowledge: Selected essays of Paul Otlet (W. Boyd Rayward, Ed. and Trans.). Amsterdam: Elsevier. (Original works published 1882 to 1945)
This volume was the first to make Paul Otlet's works available to English speakers. It presents a selection of Otlet's writings from throughout his career. Otlet was the first to consider the possibility that non-textual and three-dimensional objects could be documents, and he helped shift the focus of librarians from books to documents.
Briet, Suzanne. (2006). What is documentation? In Day, Martinet and Anghelescu (Trans.), What is documentation? English translation of the classic French text (pp. 9–46). Langham, MD: Scarecrow Press. (Original work published 1951)
This is the work that pushed scholars to recognize any material form of evidence—such as an antelope in a zoo—as a document.
Meyriat, Jean. (1981). Document, documentation, documentologie. Schéma et Schématisation, 2(14) 51–63.
Though currently only available in French, Meyriat was one of the most important document theorists in the late 20th century. In this work, Meyriat summarizes his theory of the document, notably asserting that a document is only truly a document if there is a person present to "ask" something of it.
Buckland, Michael. (1991). Information as thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 42(5), 351–360.
In this paper, Buckland outlines three ways we can think of information: as the process of becoming informed, as a piece of knowledge, and as a physical thing. He argues for increased attention to the "thing" kind of information, setting the stage for a return to the document.
Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. (1996). The social life of documents. First Monday, 1(1).
Before writing their more famous piece (below), Brown and Duguid published this meditation on documents in modern life. They explore how documents forge communities, act as boundary objects and more.
Buckland, Michael. (1997). What is a “document”? Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48(9), 804–809.
In this paper, Buckland introduces the work of Otlet and Briet to a wider, English-speaking audience.
Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. (2000). The social life of information. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
As an expansion of their 1996 paper, in this book Brown and Duguid consider how documents work within broader information and technological systems.
Lund, Niels Windfeld. (2004). Documentation in a complementary perspective. In Boyd (Ed.), Aware and responsible: Papers of the Nordic-International Colloquium on Social and Cultural Awareness and Responsibility in Library, Information and Documentation Studies (SCAR-LID) (pp. 93–102). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
Drawing on complementarity theory in physics, Lund suggests that documents have three aspects: (1) material/technological/objective, (2) social/communicational/processual, and (3) mental/informational/individual/cognitive.
Ørom, Anders. (2007). The concept of information versus the concept of document. In Roswitha Skare, Niels Windfeld Lund and Andreas Vårheim (Eds.), A document (re)turn: Contributions from a research field in transition (pp. 53–72). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
This article contextualizes the concepts of the document and information within their respective discourses, and it compares them philosophically and historically.
Frohmann, Bernd. (2009). Revisiting “what is a document?”. Journal of Documentation, 65(2), 291–303.
Rather than piddling over precise definitions of the word "document," Frohmann suggests that we use story-based analogies to compare and discuss documents on an ad hoc basis.
Lund, Niels Windfeld. (2009). Document theory. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 43, 399–432.
A broad and deep review of the literature in document theory, as of 2009, considering a range of global perspectives.
Frohmann, Bernd. (2012). The documentality of Mme Briet’s antelope. In Packer and Crofts Wiley (Eds.), Communication matters: Materialist approaches to media, mobility and networks (pp. 173–182). New York: Routledge.
Frohmann introduces and outlines the concept of documentality, which is the source of the document's power.
Buckland, Michael. (2014). Documentality beyond documents. The Monist 97(2), 179–186.
Buckland summarizes much of the work in document theory and suggests that documents come in three types: made as, made into and considered as.
Buckland, Michael. (2015). Document theory: An introduction. In M. Willer, A. J. Gilliland and M. Tomić (Eds.), Records, archives and memory: Selected papers from the Conference and School on Records, Archives and Memory Studies, University of Zadar, Croatia, May 2013 (pp. 223–37). Zadar, Croatia: University of Zadar.
Concise introduction to document theory
Buckland, Michael. (2005). Information schools: A monk, library science, and the Information Age. In Hauke (Ed.), Bibliothekswissenschaft – Quo Wadis? (pp. 19–32). Munich: De Gruyter.
If universities are supposed to respond to societal needs, then today's universities need to address the transition to the modern information society. Buckland discusses the emergence of "information schools" and the role they should play in this transition.
Day, Ronald. (2014). Indexing it all: The subject in the age of documentation, information, and data. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
This book discusses the evolution of the modern documentary tradition, beginning with the transition from books to documents, then from documents to information, and finally from information to data. Day considers the changing role of the human subject amidst this trajectory.
See also the other books in the MIT Press History and Foundations of Information Science series.
Levy, David. (2016). Scrolling forward: Making sense of documents in the digital age (2nd ed.). New York: Arcade Publishing. (Original work published 2001)
Levy considers the modern proliferation of documents in light of the long history of information technology—from the very invention of the written word.
Lund, Niels Windfeld and Michael Buckland. (2009). Document, documentation, and the Document Academy: Introduction. Archival Science, 8(3), 161–4.
This essay chronicles the return to interest in the document and the foundation of the Document Academy by Michael Buckland, Niels Windfeld Lund and W. Boyd Rayward.
Skare, Roswitha, Niels Windfeld Lund and Andreas Vårheim (Eds.). (2007). A document (re)turn: Contributions from a research field in transition. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the documentation studies program at the University of Tromsø in Norway, this book includes a variety of research papers and personal essays reflecting on the enduring concept of the document.
Links to other disciplines^
The concept of the document bridges the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences. As such, the perspective of document(ation) studies is ripe for forging connections among academic enclaves that are too often siloed apart.
Beard, David. (2008). From work to text to document. Archival Science, 8(3), 217–226.
Over time, researchers in the humanities have variously preferred "work" and "text." Beard argues for the propriety of preferring "document" in the humanities, also pointing out how each of these terms offers a unique perspective. In this way, it may not be that one is better than the other, but rather that each offers a different insight into the humanistic pursuits.
Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. (2014). Objectivity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Through a survey of scientific illustrations from the 1700s to the present day, the authors explore the evolving history of the concept of "objectivity" in science.
Foucault, Michel. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books.(Original French work published 1969)
This is a methodological work in which Foucault promotes what he calls "archaeology." He discusses the concepts of episteme (rule-based systems of thought in a given domain and period) and discourse (rule-based ways of expressing meaning) for historiography. In the introduction and at points throughout the work, Foucault discusses the concept of the document and its changing role in historiography.
Frohmann, Bernd. (2004). Deflating information: From science studies to documentation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Drawing from the rich history of inquiry in science studies, Frohmann discusses how scientific progress is actually accomplished through documents.
Latham, K. F. (2012). Museum object as document: Using Buckland’s information concepts to understand museum experiences. Journal of Documentation, 68(1), 45-71.
Latham argues that museum objects can be considered as documents, thus benefiting from the richness of scholarship in document studies as well as that in museum studies.
Latour, Bruno. (2007). Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Latour argues that society (and "the social") does not exist as an independent entity, and that, to really study "society," one must trace the connections among all the different constituents relevant to the phenomenon of interest. Latour's notion of associations has much synergy with the document; indeed, a number of scholars in document studies have adopted Latour's approach.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. (2016). How to see the world. New York: Basic Books.
This book explores how images dominate modern society, and what that means for us.
Rouet, Jean–François. (2012). The skills of document use: From text comprehension to Web-based learning. New York: Routledge. (Original work published 2006)
From the perspective of education, psychology and functional literacy, Rouet gives an up-to-date account of the technology- and literary skills needed to thrive in today's document-based world.
Shankar, Kalpana, David Hakken, and Carsten Østerlund. (2016). Rethinking documents. In Ulrike Felt, Rayvon Fouché, Clark A. Miller, and Laurel Smith-Doerr (Eds.), The handbook of science and technology studies, fourth edition (pp. 59–85). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
This chapter outlines the role of documents in science and technology studies (STS). From the STS perspective, the authors reflect upon how documents work as sites for knowledge production, and the unique challenges that digital documents present.
Tourney, Michele M. (2003). Caging virtual antelopes: Suzanne Briet’s definition of documents in the context of the digital age. Archival Science, 3(3), 291–311.
This paper brings the work of Briet and other documentalists to the world of archival studies, inviting a comparison with the archival concept of "record."
Trace, Ciaran B. (2011). Documenting work and working documents: perspectives from workplace studies, CSCW, and genre studies. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. IEEE Computer Society Press.
Trace discusses the broad research agenda regarding documents within sociology, anthropology, history, human–computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, history of science, digital and print culture, gender and ethnic studies, media studies, rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies.