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Metadata in the Age of Ubiquitous Media

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Project 2

The Metadata Project provides an empirically grounded rethink of what metadata is, and, of what it does. On the one hand via theories that come out of cultural studies, media theory and philosophy; on the other, through ethnographic research, interviews and experimental software. Conventionally, metadata is defined as data about data. In the age of ubiquitous media, metadata is also data with data.

Our research has produced a take on digital culture that allows us to understand the interplay of networks and database, content and form, digital objects and atmospheres, and, emergence and control. Metadata decides the very nature of the digital object, by tagging and naming digital material. Tags, titles, authorship, usage data, links, ads, and different forms of commentary form atmospheres of digital objects. Metadata affirms the digital object’s properties and usage.

The results of this project are based on three lines of research:

1. Semantic web development processes, involving historical studies on the development of metadata.

2. Online and offline ethnography in Japan and China and producing a series of case studies of online platforms, mostly in the area of video. The most important case study focuses on the hit Japanese video platform Nico Nico Douga, with its new models of how to use tags (organised in deletion games), commentary (overlaying the video, instead of being placed underneath it) and bookmarks (providing temporal collective coherence to the platform).

3. The production of experimental open source software. The “Utag.it” software evolved out of a collaboration between Tate and Goldsmiths. Tate’s video archive is in danger of becoming “dark matter”: without time-based metadata, one has to go through the whole video to find moments of interest. Utag.it solves the problem through a real-time video tagging system that allows the viewer to annotate videos in conceptually innovative ways.

In addition to publications, the project has produced a series of practical outcomes. BBC and BBC Global News have funded a follow-on project on “Liveness”, which conducted ethnographic research in 11 countries around the world. We are extending on our ideas and software in collaboration with the Research Incubator Lüneburg (User research lab, atmospheres working group, image database, hybrid publishing project), with IRI, Pompidou (metadata management, anonymity and collectivity), with the department of computer science in Princeton in University (recommendation system based on anonymity), and with Crabgrass, an alternative social network.

See outputs for more information about the project and the Nico Nico Douga case study. 

Project Research Team

Professor Scott Lash - Project Leader

Goetz Bachmann

Professor Robert Zimmer


Project news

The project teams' Annual Symposium 2008 presentations are available online. Explore them here.  

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Utag.it – a platform that allows time- and intensity-based tagging of videos is now complete.