Metadata Depends on Perspective

By Deane Barker on November 12, 2014

I’m reading The Discipline of Organizing. Early in the book, the author talks about “metadata,” which is a topic I’ve complained about before (go read those; I’ll wait). When it comes to web content management, I think it’s hard to differentiate between the “first order data” and the “metadata.” Which is which?

The author calls it ever further into question by introducing the perspective of the observer.

[…] what serves as metadata for one person or process can function as a primary resource or data for another one. Rather than being an inherent distinction, the difference between primary and associated resources is often just a decision about which resource we are focusing on in some situation. An animal specimen in a natural history museum might be a primary resource for museum visitors and scientists interested in anatomy, but information about where the specimen was collection is the primary resource for scientists interested in ecology or migration.

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