In a previous post for the AFF613A module for Special Topics in Digital Humanities at NUIM, I briefly discussed the CONTENTdm as a software option for the purpose of creating and managing digital collections. In the same post, I noted that it appears to be a consequence of the manual annotation of descriptive metadata entered in the fields of such software which ensures that a political cartoon is described both objectively and subjectively to provide relevance and meaning. Thus, while software solutions such as CONTENTdm provide basic and customised options for faculties/institutions to describe their digital resources, through local fields which can then be mapped to Dublin Core metadata scheme, I suggested that it is not a software issue, rather, I proposed it is a human issue in that political cartoons need to be described manually as visual communications, with both content and meaning. However, elsewhere I found that the application of metadata standards also seems to be relevant for the purpose of the discovery and retrieval of political cartoons from digital collections. Since the development of the World Wide Web, there has been a challenge to develop metadata based systems for the purpose of discovery and information retrieval. One of the early front runners was Dublin Core Metadata Element Set and this post will provide a brief introduction for same.
Metadata is often plainly described as data about data (Miller 1; Pearce-Moses 248; NISO 1), however, as a term it refers to structured information about resources or objects that support other functions such as search and retrieval or information management (Day; Zavalina 147; NISO 1). Metadata is applied to a digital collection as a whole, as well as to the individual digital items (Fenlon, Jett and Palmer) and may be encoded within a digital object itself, or in a separate but closely related file (Digital Gateway). Miller adds that “the quality of the metadata that is input into the fields is what determines the findability and interpretability of the resources in the collection” (19). The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, also known as Dublin Core (DC) was an early front runner to become an international standard. It originated in a conversation by a small group of individuals, in late 1994, at the Second International World Wide Web Conference (Phelps 326). Within this conversation, it was determined that there was a need for a metadata system which “a system of metadata” with a “core set of semantics for Web-based resources” to provide for an easier approach in search and retrieval on the Internet (Phelps 326). The aim was to determine a system of metadata to describe a HTML page and embed the encoded metadata within the actual HTML page, to facilitate its identification and discovery.
From there, a workshop for over fifty representatives from the world was devised in Dublin, Ohio, USA, and sponsored by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) (Weibel et al.). Its aims were to identify “the needs, strengths, shortcomings, and solutions of the stakeholders” and to reach “consensus on a core set of metadata elements to describe networked resources” (Weibel et al). Thirteen metadata elements were adopted at the initial workshop and described as “a simple resource description record” to be known as Dublin Core (Dempsey and Weibel). A further two elements were added, due to a third DC workshop in late 1996, which sought to broaden the resource scope to include images. It was acknowledged “that though texts and visual resources are different in many ways, the categories for grouping them and describing them are not so very different” (Weibel and Hakala). This brought Dublin Core metadata elements up to fifteen with the aim of enabling electronic and web-based information providers with the means to describe their resources without the need for specialist training, as was required for MARC records (Beale 40)
The fifteen elements fall into three types of categories as outlined below in Table 1 (Weibel, Kunze, Lagoze and Wolf). From 1997, the development and appraisal of Dublin Core metadata scheme was entrusted to a community of volunteers who became known as the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), and work began on complimenting the original element set with qualifiers for more specificity, known as the Canberra Qualifiers (Weibel and Iannella). This resulted in the introduction of Qualified Dublin Core from 2000 with an additional three elements, and a class of refinements (qualifiers) for further elaboration on the original elements (Harper 23). From 2001, all proposed changes for the terms and documentation of Dublin Core fell under the remit of the DCMI Usage Board. Dublin Core is optimised for use via XML or HTML formats for simple indexing, human understanding, and basic interoperability. From 2001-2003, Dublin Core became a national (ANC/NISO) and international standard through ISO 15836, and from there became a “core vocabulary for RDF predicates” (Talley; Harper 23).
In 2004, Beale critiqued Dublin Core for its simplicity and cited the loss of specificity and data as a fundamental flaw (Beale 40). Similar arguments were highlighted by the library community by weighing up Dublin Core “through comparisons with MARC and other standards in use in the library community” (Harper 22). On the other hand, Harper notes that the development of Dublin Core was not intended to replace other resource description frameworks, but to complement them and provide interoperability between more complicated resource description frameworks (Harper 22). While a study by Phelps (2012) indicates that Dublin Core did not reach its hoped potential for being a widely implemented standard, nonetheless, it has been adopted by digital asset management software such as CONTENTdm and Omeka as a default metadata scheme.
In the context of its application as an appropriate metadata scheme for political cartoons in digital collections, Landbeck dismisses Dublin Core as a metadata scheme (“The Description and Indexing of Editorial Cartoons” 59). He claims that while it is designed for multiple use “it does not deal well with complex relationships between items”, therefore, he notes that because of this its value is lessened as a metadata scheme for “cartoon-description” (Ibid.). Moreover, he adds that it is “less than ideal” for applying to editorial cartoons due to “the focus in its origination and continued emphasis on Web-based information sources” (Ibid. 59-60). On the other hand, Landbeck asserts that the Visual Resources Core 4.0 (VRA) metadata scheme “is designed for the cataloguing of such things as editorial cartoons” (Ibid. 60). VRA Core was created by the Visual Resources Association (VRA) as a metadata standard “for the description of works of visual culture as well as the images that document them” (VRA “Support Pages”). However, Landbeck fails to discuss why VRA Core is not widely adopted by mainstream information organisations. In a study by Park and Tosaka (2013) on the metadata schemes used by a sample section of information organizations for some or all of their resources, only 14.9 percent of the sampled organisations use VRA Core, whereas 25.4 percent of the sampled organisations use Simple Dublin Core, and 40.6 percent use Qualified Dublin Core. Landbeck also negates to mention that later versions of VRA Core were influenced by Dublin Core (JISC “Putting Things in Order”). Thus, in investigating this further, this research will further explore Qualified Dublin Core for its potential as a metadata scheme applicable to political cartoons, and the findings will be analysed in a later post.
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