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Existential dependence relations of documents in the context of preservation

Ryo Shiozaki (Seigakuin University, Saitama, Japan)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 28 June 2022

Issue publication date: 6 March 2023




This paper re-examines the ontology of documents, especially digital ones, in the context of preservation, which presumes the actual existence of things. It also explores which aspects of documents are retained or lost over the course of time.


This study detangles the complexities of existential dependence relations of documents, by selectively reviewing literature on digital preservation, document theory, John Searle's social ontology, Maurizio Ferraris' documentality, and Amie Thomasson's categorial ontology.


The author argues that (1) existing objects can be documents, insofar as perceivers regard them as such; (2) documents are social objects as they depend on other objects, including creators, perceivers, and other documents; and (3) preserving digital documents entails the curation of dependence relations since they inherently have technologically dependent relations.

Practical implications

A clarification of the existential dependence relations of documents can aid documentary heritage institutions in determining preservation goals and strategies. Future research must address how, and to what extent, such dependence relations can be curated.


This paper clarifies that the preservation of documents entails the curation of dependence relations, and the critical issue in preservation is how to best preserve the dependence relations of documents, especially since digital documents available on the Internet inherently have technological and dynamic dependence relations.



Funding: This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP22K12720.

Declaration of conflicting interests: The author declares no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and publication of this article.


Shiozaki, R. (2023), "Existential dependence relations of documents in the context of preservation", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 79 No. 2, pp. 341-356.



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