Metadata is the description of all the data surrounding a digital artefact, image or file: meta as a prefix referring to the underlying nature of this attached data. This is an umbrella term, simply referring to data linked to an object or file. In Understanding Metadata it is defined as “Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource.” (1) This is further divided into 3 categories “Descriptive metadata describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification. It can include elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords.” (1) This type of metadata is probably the most important in terms of categorising works for searchability, however there is a clear distinction from this and: “Structural metadata indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how pages are ordered to form chapters.” (1) While type of metadata links composites of a resource or collection another distinction is necessary: Administrative metadata, referring to the metadata necessary for managing resources and cataloguing them.
XML has become the standard coding language used when encoding metadata, though there are other languages that can be used, this has become the standard in most professional and official attribution of metadata. It is a hierarchal language that uses controlled vocabularies, though versatile it needs standards of use for usability of other users and these elements function in the coding language as identifiers for strings of data. “The definition or meaning of the elements themselves is known as the semantics of the scheme.” (Understanding Metadata 2)
There is one important consideration, attachment of metadata is a process that requires encoding to attach data and decoding to use the attached data. Metadata standards are therefore quite important, as they facilitate the use of data attached to files. The use of standardised schema like Dublin Core or VRA constitutes an imposed structure which is used to encode the relevant metadata in an agreed format so that this data can be used. Though the XML language technically facilitates the input of any string of characters as a title, without following standards and schema a lot of this data would be unusable as there wouldn’t be adequate reference points for searching this data i.e. without identified authors in the metadata, the task of searching for works by this person becomes akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. Controlled vocabulary is used as a form of indexing to get around this. “The purpose of controlled vocabularies is to organize information and to provide terminology to catalog and retrieve information.” (“What are controlled vocabularies?” 12) This becomes complexified when more terms are added: “A taxonomy is an orderly classification for a defined domain. It may also be known as a faceted vocabulary.” (What are controlled vocabularies?, 22) The use of these taxonomies is to stratify hierarchal data for greater ease of use by machinated searching, broadening the scope of search terms and narrowing the results down more efficiently, using less computing power by making the attached metadata more accessible.
Harpring, Patricia “What are controlled vocabularies?” (12-26). Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies: Terminology for Art, Architecture and other cultural works. Getty Research Institute: Los Angeles, 2010. Web. Moodle. Date of Access: 25 Oct. 2016.
“Metadata Mapping”. Web.
Understanding Metadata NISO press: Bethesda, 2004. Web. Moodle. Date of Access: 25 Oct. 2016.