One thought on “Musings on Metadata

  1. I appreciate this outlook regarding the importance of metadata and echo your statement about how much DSLR cameras provide. We acquired a new digital Hasselblad at the imaging lab I work in and the metadata it provides is extremely detailed. Aside from the technical metadata the software provides, the IPTC presets can be implemented into the image by any person editing the photo. It is fairly common, but could pose an issue if it was done without good faith. This statement you wrote in the blog post resonated with me, “Leaving out metadata, or carefully making sure that metadata isn’t available ensures the veracity of a digital object cannot be trusted”. It would be very easy for someone to change or add incorrect metadata on the back end of digitization. I found a couple examples that might be of interest to you.

    A form of digital manipulation is getting some attention in the photojournalism field. The New York Times wrote an article, Debating the Rules and Ethics of Photojournalism, that was very insightful. The article describes photographers getting disqualified from a contest because the photos they submitted were not even recognizable to their RAW images. These disqualifications were not because of simple editing techniques such as white balance or color correcting, the images were completely different. This also poses an important question. If these photos were not in a contest, would they have been questioned?

    Issues surrounding ethics and metadata are, unfortunately, present in our libraries and cultural heritage institutions as well. We all know of the bias surrounding LOC subject headings. This appears to be spilling over into the digital world. The article, Ethical Issues in Digitization of Cultural Heritage, looks at the issue of bias and the effect it has on collection development. Manžuch describes the metadata of the “Western” world not reflecting indigenous communities. Metadata input or lack thereof could be the result of an inherent bias. If someone were to leave important aspects of the metadata out, a community’s archive could essentially be unsearchable.

    What can we do to combat these issues of digital manipulation and skewed metadata inclusion? Since it appears to be caused by user input, is there software that will automatically incorporate correct metadata? I’m not sure the technical advancement is there yet. We still have to rely on people to do some of work. This is why we have to constantly question and reevaluate techniques in order to better serve everyone as LIS professionals. Thanks for your post.

    Manžuch, Zinaida “Ethical Issues in Digitization of Cultural Heritage.” Journal of Contemporary
    Archival Studies 4 (2017): 1-17.


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