Metadata and Politics

Guptill, S. C. (1999) Metadata and data catalogues

Guptill (1999) provides a good overview of metadata and their application to GISystems. Guptill explains how data catalogues function via metadata and describes how domain specificity complicates the picture. Technical and technological applications of metadata are broken down to exemplify how metadata facilitate interoperability.

The concept of metadata standards is delivered and a number of landmark examples are introduced. Absent from this article, however, is the unraveling of the politics of metadata creation and standardization. FGDC, ISO, Dublin Core and others did not just happen across the perfect element set. Some were created independently and some were built off other’s templates. Additionally, metadata standards are generally skewed towards geomatic and technical elements across the board. The focus of this article on the technical and technological aspects of metadata speaks to lack of qualitative metadata.   Guptill does not showcase the negotiation process of creating a standard, different groups with varying interests come together to produce a standard – especially at higher levels of governance.

One of the chief ramifications of metadata on GIScience and beyond is interoperability. Crosswalks and other forms of (meta)data mediation will be critical to support these ever-expanding structures. This article presents an optimistic view on the future of metadata, predicting its future use as the bridge between domain specificity. Guptill notes that for such a system to work, description and vocabulary need to be formalized (684). There is no mention of how concretizing descriptions and vocabulary into a formalized language would constrain our understanding of the world and inevitably exclude perspectives.

Metadata and standards are inherently political.


Comments are closed.