Records, Information and Data

Jul 2018 | 224pp

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Records, Information and Data
Exploring the role of record-keeping in an information culture

Geoffrey Yeo

This dynamic book considers whether and how the management of records (and archives) differs from the management of information (and data). 

Can archives and records management still make a distinctive contribution in the 21st century, or are they now being dissolved into a wider world of information governance? What should be our conceptual understanding of records in the digital era? What are the practical implications of the information revolution for the work of archivists and records managers?
Geoffrey Yeo, a distinguished expert in the global field, explores concepts of ‘records’ and ‘archives’ and sets today’s record-keeping and archival practices in their historical context. He examines changing perceptions of records management and archival work, and asks whether and how far understandings derived from the fields of information management and data administration can enhance our knowledge of how records function. He argues that concepts of information and data cannot provide a fully adequate basis for reflective professional thinking about records and that record-keeping practices still have distinct and important roles to play in contemporary society. 

Readership: This thought-provoking and timely book is primarily intended for records managers and archivists, but should also be of interest to professionals in a range of information-related disciplines. It aims to provide a balance of theory and practice that will appeal to practitioners as well as students and academics around the world.


  • Concepts of information, data and records
  • Background to the book
  • Structure and content
  • Acknowledgements 

1. The making and keeping of records: a brief historical overview

  • Record-making and record-keeping over 10,000 years
  • Records, memory and evidence
  • Repositories and their curators
  • Archivists and the emergence of records management

 2. Thinking about records and archives; the transition to the digital

  • Fixity and fluidity in the digital domain
  • Adventures over time
  • Record aggregations 
  • Archival mind-sets
  • Information: a fifth paradigm?

3. Archivists, records managers and the rise of information

  • Accentuating information in contemporary culture
  • Records management and information governance
  • Information and archives
  • Making connections between records and information: diverse views
  • Managing information ‘as a record’

4. Finding a way through the hall of mirrors: concepts of information

  • Information and its reification
  • Records management and new concepts of information
  • Information as content or information as affordance?
  • Dissent and debate

5. Records and data

  • The ‘datafication’ of records
  • Further perspectives on data and record-keeping
  • Data and information: some conflicting views
  • Factuality
  • Contested concepts

6. Representation, performativity and social action: why records are not (just) information

  • Representations
  • Speech acts
  • Propositions and performativity
  • Data, computers and the making of speech acts
  • Metadata
  • Doing things with records
  • From speech acts to social acts
  • The ‘information potentials’ of records
  • Information, evidence and other affordances

7. Managing information or managing records?

  • Conceptions and practices of ‘information management’: information as proposition
  • Information management and records management: two peas from different pods?
  • Making use of records despite their imperfections
  • Knowing ‘what was said’
  • Characteristics of records and information
  • ‘Authoritative’ records and the scope of record-keeping

Concluding thoughts: record-keeping present and future

  • The digital deluge
  • Records in an information culture

"How well do we understand the similarities and differences between records, information, and data? ... Have we adequately contemplated where we are going in our rush to adopt the emperor’s new clothes of information management? What are the consequences of downplaying ... those unique skills that records professionals must have? ... Can the making and keeping of records continue to be regarded as a separate, distinct, and worthy endeavour in the digital age? Geoffrey Yeo ... addresses these questions in this timely book, which should be read by all records professionals. ... His language is clear, dispassionate, and direct. ... Make no mistake: records matter. They are not some quaint and archaic subset of the modern, thrusting world of data or information. They matter because they play a unique and vital role in society...Yeo’s book... is a reassertion and rearticulation of our enduring core purpose."
— Adrian Cunningham, formerly Queensland State Archives, Archivaria

'Yeo argues that ... dilution of records and archives into the surging ocean of information (and its accompanying data deluge) is unwarranted. ... Borrowing from the theory of speech acts developed by John Austin and John Searle, Yeo characterizes records as performative: they help us do a variety of things. Records are actions by other means, as much instruments as they are representations. ... Yeo’s book provides a lucid argument for the need for records managers and archivists to resist the song of the information sirens. Philosophically grounded and analytically clear, Records, Information and Data offers a view of records capable of acting as the foundation for a renewed archival discipline for the twenty-first century.'
- Juan Ilerbaig, University of Toronto, American Archivist

'Yeo crafts a comprehensive guide to records management in the modern digital and data-driven world, focusing on record-keeping practices ... and how they are changing... Records, Information and Data is the product of extensive research: each chapter includes endnotes and references. Recommended for undergraduates and graduate students interested in records or information management.'‚Äč
- K. J. Whitehair, independent scholar, CHOICE

'Yeo's searching examination of claims that archivists and records managers must reinvent themselves and their discipline for an information age draws on an impressive reading and analysis of a wide range of literature. Everyone in the records field or aspiring to enter it should read this book and ponder its many cogent arguments.'
- Terry Eastwood, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Columbia

'Firmly grounded in the history of record-making and record-keeping over 10,000 years, Yeo’s book argues that the prevalent discourse which equates records simply with information or data is wrong. His innovative analysis of the performativity of records results in a fascinating new conceptual and practical understanding of the roles of records and archives in social action. Professionals in handling records, information and data, as well as users of records and archives and everyone interested in ‘the archive’, will gain from this perceptive and highly readable book a new comprehension of past, present and future information cultures.’
- Eric Ketelaar, Professor Emeritus of Archivistics, University of Amsterdam

Geoffrey Yeo is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Information Studies at University College London, UK. His previous work for Facet includes Managing records: a handbook of principles and practice (with Elizabeth Shepherd, 2003), and Managing records in global financial markets (with Lynn Coleman, Victoria Lemieux and Rod Stone, 2011).