Data, Data, Data Overload

Metadata and the database as a genre are both extremely confusing concepts that I had difficulty wrapping my head around.  I suppose because I had never considered the two despite subconsciously knowing what they are.  It’s fascinating how we slowly become more and more unaware of how we are able to gain new information so quickly by database.  I never before realized exactly how much goes into cataloguing information and learning about metadata in Anne Gilliland’s, “Setting the Stage,” and the National Information Standards Organization’s “What is Metadata?”  Virtually all of the vocabulary was unfamiliar to me and so my question then is how do we categorize and make sense of metadata in the simplest terms for non-experts like myself?  Is such a thing even necessary? Because we have others whose responsibility is standardizing and creating this metadata for users, does it matter for us to try to learn such a complex system riddled with acronyms and varying standards?  I say it is.  Reading these articles exposed me to a complicated system that I seem to encounter frequently in my academic career, and yet I have no real knowledge of how it works.  Therefore, I would like to learn more about the concept of metadata and how it contributes to our modern information systems of organization.

Beyond metadata and its contribution to academia via databases, the concept of database as a literary genre also struck me as an interesting concept that I had not really thought of before.  Ed Folsom cites Walt Whitman as an example of this notion in his article, “Database as a Genre.”  Whitman’s mixture of poetry and prose and subjects complicates his place in a system that emphasizes order and categorization known as genre.  However, because he lack’s consistency in genre, his work becomes databases themselves of information and styles.  Thus the argument of database as a genre makes sense according to Folsom, and it is an intriguing concept that I find myself agreeing to.  However, thinking about that I am reminded of the movie Inception in a way, that it would then be a database within a database.  Is this possible and how far can we go with this “data-ception?” There is also a question that Folsom points to in the conflict between narrative and database, what is the difference between the two? Folsom cites Dimock citing Manovich that “the database represents the world as a list of items, and it refuses to order this list” and “a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items.”  Folsom argues that he has experienced the two in conflict but that the two can comingle in his own Whitman database.  So how does this comingling occur exactly and how does it apply to other databases today? Overall, I find myself overwhelmed by such new concepts and the “data-ception” going on with databases and metadata; clarity is then much needed in our complex data world.

About Carla Aviles-Jimenez

Writing and Learning Center
This entry was posted in Week 5 blog post. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Data, Data, Data Overload

  1. Olivia Henley says:

    I thought I was alone in the dark when it came to the concepts of metadata and databases. The ideas are still swirling around in my head, not quite clicking yet as I think them through.
    I completely agree with you that there is something to be said about caring for this sort of information, despite having never needed to think about it before. I have questions not for you to answer, necessarily, but for you to ponder, because I’m not sure myself.
    If this complex world of metadata and databases needs to be understood, but is ever-changing and ever commingling, how then, do we simplify it enough to be understood?
    We clearly need to understand it as we move forward with technology in this increasingly technological world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *