Verification in Documentation

Overview on the critical role of memoir typology in the trifecta theory of the book

Nossratollah Samadzadeh
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


  1. Verification/authentication seems to be the key concern of the experts and enthusiasts of documentaries produced based on memories and oral history projects. Exclusion of this concern from historical productions might even silence critics of many experts in the field.

What is verification/authentication? In discussing the matter, I intentionally, avoid the comparative realm of truth and reality; and I don’t want this article to be tangled in the relativity of realism, which will be of no use. Hence, in defining verification/authentication, I shall apply the terminology of the concept and look at the issue from the audience point of view. The basic assumption in this concept is that the incident described in a documentary or a literal narrative is received as a truth by the audience; of which the audience is either aware or concludes to be true based on the evidence provided and in case the incident report or the memoir contradicts the their knowledge, criticism is made.

  1. In assessment of the contribution of the documentary audience (targeted audience in publications) we have to acknowledge dealing with two groups. The first group constitute those involved in the field and have a say in the matter or are researchers and since they are involved in content production or have relative responsibilities we often see their criticism in the notes, virtual space, social groups and media. The second group is the general book enthusiasts; whose analysis is less known to us and there is no systematized feedback mechanism to receive their ideas and how they relate to historical works? We simply rely of the sales rate of such works or library studies to assess their exposure to such content.

The main characteristic of the first group is that due to their awareness of the concept and expertise they express concern on behalf of the second group as well and consider themselves as the representatives of the second group and want the truth to be disseminated to the general public.

  1. In recent years, the “War Technical Library of the Art Department” through study of the cycle of book publication and distribution has achieved a specific stance and theory which forms the foundation of our argument due to efficiency in library and expert functions. Although, we hope that in the future, the analytical function of this theory will be assessed in various processes and will be strengthened. The theory is: “Books follow a trifecta existence after publication and form specific requirements and arguments in each existence and ignorance of these three cause defects and harms in the exposure and publication of such works. These three existences are: research existence, cultural existence and commercial existence. In research existence, a book is a document or sorts of it and those studying these groups are scholars, researchers and authors. In cultural existence, a book is a social media or a messenger and the general public form its audience. In commercial existence, a book is a cultural product and the customers ensure its survival cycle.” (this theory has been argued in various channels in the past eight years. Including some of its characteristics which were published in “Book of the Week” Vol. 1100 titled “Customers, the main capital of the library”).

The key function of the theory comes to life when we consider and value the audience. In light of this, the publishers have to determine the type of existence intended for each book. For instance, if a historical book is considered for cultural existence where the general public form the audience, on one hand, they have to deal with the fact that the publication volume is low and any media with such limited audience is a silence media and its operation is not beneficial. On the other hand, they have to acknowledge that the general public gain their historical knowledge from art and literary works rather than scientific historical books; and the higher its literary and art value (which is subject to the command and competence of the documentary producer) the higher its public study. (National per capita study rate discrepancy, ineffective in this analysis, is ignored.)

Also, this theory alters the structural requirements of the book. For instance, in research existence, the emphasis in the structure is presence of scientific entries, scientific induction, relevant images, resources and references, which becomes less important in cultural existence and excluded in the publication of such relics.

It is worth mentioning that coexistence of all these three existence in one book is challenging. For some reasons, it is impossible to realize it. For instance, in cultural existence, the end product should be affordable and the audience is less interested in the sources and references and the documents presented and inclusion of this information for a book in cultural arena interrupts its study and increases the volume and consequently the price. However, these excluded parts form the key outline of a research existence. Hence cultural existence and research existence shall not coexist and in case a book is to target two existences then the publication process varies.

  1. Social memoir writing, which is published in solidarity, through which one character is introduced and his life is examined from childhood to presence is for cultural existence in which the memoir writer is an author or familiar with writing and the memoir owner (in oral history) is usually an ordinary person and his memoirs are adopted like a normal person and the subject matter is more of a social implication rather than documentary and historical.

Also, all oral history relics fit within the research existence. In fact, from this perspective, oral history is a scientific and research methodology to produce various types (including historical, social, scientific, economic and legal) relics in which case the formal should be in the form of Q & A to manifest the scientific content of the questions for further quality analysis.

Three points are to be considered here. First is that the author of the content is well aware of the cross-cutting nature of some sciences and knows the status of such knowledge! Hence, his understanding has nothing to do with the cross-cutting nature of oral history and memoriography studies. Second, all relics targeting cultural existence have to potential to fit within the research existence (of course the reverse is not applicable). However, this very fact induces no requirements in the publication. For instance, one novel might be a research sources (for instance social research) but this very fact imposes no structural implication and the author shall not provide an induction for his novel! Third, many memories produced as oral history (particularly concerning the War and the Holy Defense) the author does not perceive them as an oral history project.

  1. Based on this theory, verification of the research existence relics (such as oral history contents) based on the subject matter, are evaluated based on research study criteria and considering that the audience are experts its authentication lies within a limited scope and distribution of such critics remains in the realm of scientific boards with limited access and short of some exception, such critics are limited to few numbers.

However, verification of cultural existence relics differs from those of research existence. In memoirs compiled, on one hand, people should relate to the characters introduced in the book to be attracted and interested. On the other hand, the public audience should be assured that the memoirs and the events are to be attributed to the narrator. For verification of such relics with cultural existence, recorded voice of the interviewee is a verification document and the general audience deems unnecessary to access such recordings. Also, omission of questions in the book is not a defect; on the contrary, strong presence of the author interrupts the smooth reading process and distracts the audience.

In cultural existence, what is important is that the ideas of the narrator form the foundation of verification for the information in the content and they have to approve the content. If the book is writing by the narrator, it is a verification by itself that the information is truthful and in case of oral memory, obtaining a written verification document to remain with the publisher (whether printed in the book or not) shall suffice.

Of course, such verifications shall not allow the narrator to disseminate untruthful information to make the content more attractive and the content value is assess merely by the readers. We have to consider that the content is to define the relation the audience build with the book and verification from the audience point of view and is not a necessity or a method of criticism in memoir writing.

Also, it is to be stated that majority of the centers and authors, produce memoirs to enter the cultural cycle and they have to know that such relics have specific literal and art requirements which is difficult to understand for some history researchers and it is unpleasant. Such relics, do not attract their value of historical truthfulness through researchers (before or after publication), since the independent and inclusive assessment is not possible. Such relics gain their value elsewhere including production and expert institutions or credible publishers or fair critics who indicate the historical defects in a just assessment. Of course the author has no access to such critics and many use general statements to discredit a relic and question its scientific value through general criticism with no scientific bone.

Hence, the author shall know that: memory is memory with its unique characteristics and shall not be mistakenly assessed (such as narratives or historical reports) and the criteria applied for verification shall be based on knowledge and classification and without typology and consideration of the existence requirements no general verdict shall be issued.

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