It’s no new thought for me, but indeed, everything is metadata! And everywhere you look, even when you least realize it, you see metadata. Colours of buildings, clothing styles, colours of sunglasses, weather, etc. Of course, it’s not easy to put a tag on everything, but imagine, what if you could… Imagine walking around in Athens seeing tags (like the price tags on clothes), hanging from each building, describing its type, year, colour, residents, energy consumption, etc.
But how could you get all this, without hanging actual tags on buildings? You could, in many many different ways. But, who would describe them? Who would add all this meta-data to the buildings, for example.. No one I guess, or a small group of obsessed, and really sad if you ask me, people. But is this a discussion on how to manage to add metadata to everything? Or is it a matter of interest? Add metadata only to the things that matter… If you care about sth that much, you usually spend time on it. You care, you do sth about it.
What is Facebook about? Isn’t it about metadata? “Feeling down”, “Feeling hopeless”, etc. Checking in at a place (that’s your usual langtitude and longtitude), posting a photo, tagging friends (also giving out their location). Posting photos on instagram, or posting tweets that could show, if carefully analyzed, your mood, your thoughts, your political opinion, etc. Why do we do all this on Facebook? Cause we care, cause through it, we somehow fulfill needs for communication, needs for human interaction (although it’s not the one we’re hoping for, it’s still with humans and it evolves interacting!). We spend all this time providing metadata online, cause it’s part of our lives and (sadly) part of what our lives need to progress, to spend the day, to communicate, to reach out.
I recently sat down and organized some stuff at home. I tagged some boxes, labeled some others, in general tried to make sense of the mess I called my office. This is where it hit me that everything in this house is metadata. Perception metadata if I may use the term. Metadata that exist in the repository of my head and that are retrieved everytime I look at sth. Metadata about the volume of things, their shape or their colour. Metadata about how I feel about these things, “Sentiment Metadata” and metadata about how these things make me feel or how they evoke memories of other things (like relating resources to one another), of people or time periods (like coverage in IEEE LOM) of my past.
If you are reading through to get to the end, let me save you the time by saying that these rumblings have no purpose and will certainly not lead to any groundbreaking realization. Having said that, it is indeed remarkable how everything becomes metadata through our eyes. It’s the amazing volume of data that is produced merely by us looking around. And it’s the potential that this data would unlock if somehow we manage to capture it in a seamless, effortless way. Cause I cannot think of a more boring way to live your life (or waste it for that matter) than to sit down and document your metadata of the world as you live in it.
Either way, it’s a really fluid space, the space of our perception and its boundaries or overlaps with the perception of others. Metadata is surely a matter of perception in most cases. Apart from a filesize, almost every other metadata field is open to more than one, or more than ten different interpretations and therefore values. This means, that even if you had all the entities of this vain world, annotated and archived in a repository, you would still have no more but a fraction of all the possible metadata annotations for these entities. If you give the same book to 100 people, you will probable end up getting back 100 different metadata records and not only in the fields of description, or keywords, but also other, less-open-to-different-interpretations, fields.
So again, is it necessary to document everything? To annotate the hell out of everything? No… It’s not… It’s only sufficient to be able to get a sample of annotations for anything we are interested in… But again, the problem remains, unsolved more or less, through the course of my PhD as well… How can we make metadata fun to provide? How can we make metadata a “game” where you willingly provide metadata about things that matter? Yes, this means that metadata we give on Facebook does not matter most of the time!
Thanks for bearing with me through this…