Prior Trustworthy 100-Year Digital Object articles describe a method for preserving digitally represented information. Trustworthy Digital Object (TDO) representation and packaging makes any digital content reliably meaningful to consumers, no matter how distant these are in time, in space, and in social affiliation from their information sources. The current article focuses on digital document authenticity and on evidence a consumer can use to decide whether to trust the content. Such considerations are necessarily epistemological. Arguing the issues must start by conveying as unambiguously as possible what we mean by words like ‘authenticity’ and ‘evidence’ and by distinguishing between statements that are ‘objective’ and those that are ‘subjective’. Our analysis applies Wittgenstein’s teaching to pictorial models of digital and conventional communication. This analysis leads us to identify an ethical imperative for digital preservation, and to suggest that the TDO method defines a quality standard against which any method of digital preservation should be judged.
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