Metadata is the data about data, this is, a text, voice, or image that describes what the audience wants or needs to see or experience.It is used to facilitate the understanding, usage, and management of data, both by human and computers. n item of metadata may describe an individual datum, or content item, or a collection of data including multiple content items and hierarchical levels, such as a database schema.

Usually it is not possible to distinguish between (plain) data and metadata because:

  • Something can be data and metadata at the same time. The headline of an article is both its title (metadata) and part of its text (data).
  • Data and metadata can change their roles. A poem, as such, would be regarded as data, but if there is a song that uses it as lyrics, the whole poem could be attached to an audio file of the song as metadata. Thus, the labeling depends on the point of view.

The most popular initiative about metadata is the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, aka DCMI.

“DCMI traces its roots to Chicago at the 2nd International World Wide Web Conference, October 1994. Yuri Rubinsky of SoftQuad (who chaired panels regarding the future of HTML and Web authoring tools) along with Stuart Weibel and Eric Miller of OCLC (who were presenting papers about scholarly publishing on the Web and leading discussions on the delivery of Web-based library services) had a hallway conversation with Terry Noreault, then Director of the OCLC Office of Research, and Joseph Hardin, then Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). This discussion on semantics and the Web revolved around the difficulty of finding resources (difficult even then, with only about 500,000 addressable objects on the Web).

Their initial brainstorming lead to NCSA and OCLC holding a joint workshop to discuss metadata semantics in Dublin, Ohio, March 1995. At this event, called simply the “OCLC/NCSA Metadata Workshop”, more than 50 people discussed how a core set of semantics for Web-based resources would be extremely useful for categorizing the Web for easier search and retrieval. They dubbed the result “Dublin Core metadata” based on the location of the workshop. Since that time conferences and workshops have been held in England, Australia, Finland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy, and the United States.”

the workshop format was broadened to include tutorials and peer-reviewed conference papers and posters, offering the metadata community a greater opportunity for learning, exchange of ideas, and development of DC metadata standards. The Initiative supports the development of metadata registry infrastructure that will provide users metadata definitions and documentation in the languages of its users.


Metadata (2009, December 14)

DCMI History (2009, December 14)

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative


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