The Info-Pros: Authors of the 21st Century

I was always confused by the attribution of authorship to translations of original works. I did not understand why the translator’s name was the prominent name on the covers of Grecian epics written by iconic poets. I thought, who cares who translated it? Shouldn’t we only be concerned with the author of the original text? Well, the discussion of metadata has reminded me of this question, and provided me with some clarity.

I’ll be honest. The first few weeks of this class, I was confused and skeptical about what we were going to learn. I did not think there was going to be significant material to study. Really, how much rhetoric is involved in categorizing info pieces? Well, the readings this week have opened my eyes to the world of metadata, and now I totally understand. There is significant rhetoric here and it is undoubtedly worth our time and study. If we do not understand database as a genre, we are going to unconsciously fall victim to unwanted persuasion and be manipulated by the authors of metadata.

These metadata authors, most often, are not the authors of the work we have set out to examine. They are information professionals who have decided just how to categorize that info piece, and have linked you to related works (and blinded you to their idea of ‘unrelated’ works). What impact does their decision have on us? Well, lets think about times when those who had the know-how to categorize have used this power to establish groups. We’ll remember things like racism, prejudice, marginalization and segregation. Now, I am very concerned with how these information professionals are organizing data.

Moreover, the transcription of an original work to electronic form to the database creates a windows for misrepresentation. This is because “mark-up becomes part of the electronic resource itself” (NISO Press, 2004). Thus, the information professionals who apply this mark-up are literally becoming co-authors of the work, yet we know nothing about them or how they might try to influence us. In Walt Whitman’s case, the categorization of his literary work applied an auto-interpretation that is supposed to be left to the discretion of the reader (Folsom). They’ve tacked on genre to his work while he intended the genre to be ambiguous. The result, the reading of Whitman’s work is a drastically different experience.

So, I now understand why translators get such credit. They are responsible for mediating between languages and necessarily making interpretive decisions. The job gives them the ability to alter the work significantly. For this reason, it makes sense that they are so prominently designated, for they are responsible for the final product. But, we do not see the info exports taking responsibility for how they’ve categorized materials… could this be a real problem?

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