So upon looking for some useful metadata guidelines, I stumbled across a somewhat dated virtual missive from info-meister and writer Cory Doctorow. His screed appealed to me, as it provided a lighthearted counterbalance to the argument in favor of that ever-elusive fish, the perfect metadata taxonomy. Doctorow provides many reasons one should be skeptical of pervasive metadata schemas, all boiling down to our uniqueness of being human. Here’s one of my favorites:
2.7 There’s more than one way to describe something
“No, I’m not watching cartoons! It’s cultural anthropology.”
“This isn’t smut, it’s art.”
“It’s not a bald spot, it’s a solar panel for a sex-machine.”
Reasonable people can disagree forever on how to describe something. Arguably, your Self is the collection of associations and descriptors you ascribe to ideas. Requiring everyone to use the same vocabulary to describe their material denudes the cognitive landscape, enforces homogeneity in ideas.
And that’s just not right.
I’m a big believer in having both a modicum of interconnected taxonomies as well as distinct and flavorful local schemas that are both concise and clear. Blogger-brarian Linda Summers counters Doctorow a bit more intelligibly:
Moreover, Doctorow’s tongue-in-cheek-yet-cynical diatribe on human nature reminds me in many of ways of Thomas Hobbs’s interpretation of human nature, as each focuses on the self-centered and lazy aspects of human beings. I do agree that humans have the capacity to be indolent and selfish; however, I disagree that these traits dominate the collective unconsciousness.
Rather than dive into a sociological rip-tide and become lost forever in a Durkheim-esque vortex of the collective consciousness, I will say that our indolence and selfishness have collectively served us fairly well in creating the crapstorm of economic malfeasance that our national boots currently wallow in. But that’s another issue. Regarding metadata, will it save the world and provide the pervasive info-elixir beaming information directly to our eyes? Probably not completely. Perhaps our info-topia is found more in the journey of searching itself rather than just the result, however precise and quickly it is delivered by the Google.