Project 2: Metadata in the Age of Ubiquitous Media

The Metadata Project provides an empirically grounded rethink of what metadata is, and, of what it does.

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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 the 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 “” 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. 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.

Our research blog of the Nico Nico Douga research.

Professor Scott Lash

Goetz Bachmann

Professor Robert Zimmer

Fieldwork in Shanghai, January 2010

The Projects team has recently returned from a research trip to Shanghai. Based on the fieldwork by Daisy Tam and Goetz Bachmann, one result of this will be an ethnographic account of the practices of an "economy of contribution", in a company that specialises in creating apps and platforms for the social web.

Michael Jewell has joined the team. He will complete the AS3 coding for - a system for timestamp- and intensity-based collaborative tagging (see below)  of audiovisual content.


Economy of Contribution, 8 February 2009

Annual Symposium 2008: Force of Metadata 

Saturday, 29 November 2008, 9.30 am - 18.30 pm (Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London) The Metadata Symposium on Nov the 29th was a great success. More than 170 people have registered for the event in advance. The speakers from different backgrounds opened up truly interdisciplinary discussions on philosophy, computer science, arts and humanities. Many participants continued the discussions at the reception after the day-long event. The importance of metadata research is agreed as well as the exploration of its possibilities in future development, especially under an interdisciplinary framework.


Project in general

Overall description of the projects approach – [ Metadata0_outline

 Fieldwork in Japan - The Video sharing-platform 'Nico Nico Douga' 

In this series of short and preliminary (!) texts we publish first results of the Metadata Project’s ethnographic research on Nico Nico Douga. We post the Nico Nico Douga Texts first on our research blog, and some weeks later here in form of pdfs. There is more to come.


What is Nico Nico Douga - [ Metadata1_NND_basics1 ]
Our research (started with a party) - [ Metadata2_NND_basics2 ]
Some lessons for us beginners by an Otaku - [ Metadata3_NND_basics3 ]

 Focus groups and events

What is “Kuuki”? Our first focus group – [ Metadata6_kuuki1_whatis ]
Dimensions of Imas – talking to members of Nico Nico Bu - [ Metadata7_dimensions ]
What is “Matsuri”? Talking to Nico Nico Bu members in Kyoto - [ Metadata20_Matsuri ]
Dancing with avatars – clubbing on a Nico Caravan in Osaka - [ Metadata18_Clubbing ]
Tetsugaku (= philosophy) on Nico Nico Douga: More about tags - [ Metadata12_tags ]

Portraits of Conversations

Tag-Wars: A conversation with Hamano Satoshi san - [ Metadata4_tag_wars ]
Evolution as narrative: A conversation with Yoshikawa Hideyuki san - [ Metadata5_evolution ]
Greasemonkey for tags? A conversation with Noriaki-san - [ Metadata8_Grease ]
Swinging Tags: A conversation with Koizuka Akihiko san - [ Metadata9_swinging ]
Kuuki dissected: A conversation with Kishino Yusuke san - [ Metadata10_Kuuki2_dissected ]
Chanting Jokes: A conversation with Anehime-san  - [ Metadata14_Jokes ]
Life and death on Nico Nico Douga – a conversation with Hikawa Ryusuke san  - [ Metadata15_Life ]
Secret Nico Nico Douga: Meeting Arimura Yuu san and three of his junior fellows  - [ Metadata16_secret ]
Nico Politics in a Cosplay Cafe: A conversation with Midouoka-san  - [ Metadata17_politics ]
Beyond Sklavenmoral - Kanamaru Toshiyuki and Harry Graf Kessler - [ Metadata21_Sklavenmoral ]
Story and backstory in the age of metadata - A conversation with Sikii-san - [ Metadata22_Backstory ]


Reading Nico Nico Douga with Gerard Genette  - [ Metadata11_genette ]
Nico-ish platforms in the West and in China - [ Metadata13_west_and_china ]
Clubbing in the afternoon: Dancing on a Nico Nico Caravan in Osaka - [ pdf ]
Wunderbar! Nico Nico Douga goes German – and some hesitant reflections on Japaneseness - [ Metadata19_Japanesness ]
More to come soon! Meanwhile check out our blog or go for the real stuff.         

Public Presentations

 "Ends of Television" Conference in Amsterdam, June 29th: Goetz Bachmann presents a paper on "The power of Metadata Time"

The 7th European Conference of Computing and Philosophy, Barcelona, 2-4 July: Yuk Hui, Phd student of the project: ‘ On the Meaning of Digital Objects’

The 5th Social Study of ICT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF), London School of Economics ,21-22 April, 2009: Yuk Hui: ‘On the Temporal Experience of Digital Objects’

Open Knowledge Conference, University College of London, 28 March, 2009: Yuk Hui, Andrea Rota, U.Tagit: ‘ATime-Based Video Tagging Engine*

Les Entretiens du Nouveau Monde Industriel,, Paris, 24-26 March, 2009: Yuk Hui :’ On the Logic of Digital Objects– the Necessity of Meanings’

Andrea Rota has presented the project on the "Open Video  Conference" in New York on June 19th/20th.