Although standardized vocabularies and languages are often invoked as a way to ensure interoperability in the management of informational resources, these conventions prioritize particular ways of representing the world. This project situates metadata as an infrastructure of information, and examines how such descriptive practices have configured the production of knowledge for centuries—from medieval herbals to global surveillance efforts in the 21st century.
Metadata Poems is composed of a series of publications that explores the complicated relationship between metadata and their ostensible referents. In a forthcoming chapter, Bonnie Mak and her collaborator, Julia Pollack (MS '12), investigate the formal structure of a card catalog through a performance of bibliographical practice. By crafting multiple descriptions that summarize, classify, and cross-reference their recent body of work, co-authors make explicit some of the challenges related to representing three-dimensional objects in a manner suitable for transmission on a file card. Through this and other exercises, Metadata Poems seeks to uncover some of the ways in which metadata influence the representation, production, and transmission of knowledge, and consequently shape our understanding of the world.
- Bonnie Mak, Principal Investigator