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Editorial Plus



  • 01 November, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Context: This topic is important for UPSC GS Paper 3.

What is Metadata?

Metadata Meaning: Meta-data is "data that provides information about other data", but not the content of the data, such as the text of a message or the image itself. There are many distinct types of meta-data, including:

  • Descriptive meta data — the descriptive information about a resource. It is used for discovery and identification. It includes elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords.
  • Structural metadata — meta data about containers of data and indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how pages are ordered to form chapters. It describes the types, versions, relationships and other characteristics of digital materials.
  • Administrative meta-data — the information to help manage a resource, like resource type, permissions, and when and how it was created.
  • Reference meta-data — the information about the contents and quality of statistical data.
  • Statistical meta-data- also called process data, may describe processes that collect, process, or produce statistical data.
  • Legal metadata — provides information about the creator, copyright holder, and public licensing, if provided.

Metadata has various purposes:

  • It can help users find relevant information and discover resources.
  • It can also help organize electronic resources, provide digital identification, and archive and preserve resources.
  • Meta-data allows users to access resources through "allowing resources to be found by relevant criteria, identifying resources, bringing similar resources together, distinguishing dissimilar resources, and giving location information."
  • Metadata of telecommunication activities including Internet traffic is very widely collected by various national governmental organizations.
  • This data is used for the purposes of traffic analysis and can be used for mass surveillance.
  • Meta-data was traditionally used in the card catalogues of libraries until the 1980s, when libraries converted their catalogue data to digital databases.
  • In the 2000s, as data and information were increasingly stored digitally, this digital data was described using meta-data standards.

Define Metadata-

Metadata means "data about data". Although the "meta" prefix means "after" or "beyond", it is used to mean "about" in epistemology. Meta-data is defined as the data providing information about one or more aspects of the data; it is used to summarize basic information about data which can make tracking and working with specific data easier. 

Some examples include:

  • Means of creation of the data
  • Purpose of the data
  • Time and date of creation
  • Creator or author of the data
  • Location on a computer network where the data was created
  • Standards used
  • File size
  • Data quality
  • Source of the data
  • The process used to create the data

For example, a digital image may include meta-data that describes the size of the image, its color depth, resolution, when it was created, the shutter speed, and other data. 

A text document's meta-data may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.

Metadata within web pages can also contain descriptions of page content, as well as key words linked to the content. 

These links are often called "Metatags", which were used as the primary factor in determining order for a web search until the late 1990s. The reliance of metatags in web searches was decreased in the late 1990s because of "keyword stuffing". Metatags were being largely misused to trick search engines into thinking some websites had more relevance in the search than they really did.

Metadata can be stored and managed in a database, often called a meta-data registry or metadata repository.

However, without context and a point of reference, it might be impossible to identify meta-data just by looking at it. 

The term "meta-data" was coined in 1968 by Philip Bagley, in his book "Extension of Programming Language Concepts" where it is clear that he uses the term in the ISO 11179 "traditional" sense, which is "structural meta-data" i.e. "data about the containers of data"; rather than the alternative sense "content about individual instances of data content" or metacontent, the type of data usually found in library catalogues. 

Since then the fields of information management, information science, information technology, librarianship, and GIS have widely adopted the term. In these fields the word meta-data is defined as "data about data". 

How is Facebook embedding the real world in computing?

Why is Mark Zuckerberg betting on metaverse? How will it change the way social media is used?

The story so far:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of his company to Meta. The change, he said in a post, has been brought about “to reflect who we are and the future we hope to build”. Facebook, the social media platform, will, however, keep its name.

What is the future it is hoping to build?

  • It is called metaverse (thus the new name). Meta-verse is what the Facebook founder calls “an embodied internet”. It is where “you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”.
  • Mr. Zuckerberg gave a glimpse of the meta-verse through a demo video. It shows him being called in to join his friends playing cards in a virtual space.
  • They are all there as their chosen avatars, one of them even floating around the virtual room. They hide or reveal their cards just as they would in a real setting. He then dials another friend, who talks about an artist who is hiding augmented reality art pieces on street walls for people to find. The friends in the virtual space get sent the link of this art and view it then and there.
  • Meta-verse, for him, marks an evolution of how people connect with each other: “We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line.”

Is metaverse exclusive to Meta?

  • No. Mr. Zuckerberg sees metaverse as a successor to the mobile internet and as something that will see contributions from many companies.
  • Metaverse is a virtual environment that will lend itself to immersive experiences.
  • It means, according to Mr. Zuckerberg, “having a shared sense of space and not just looking at a grid of faces”. The “defining quality of the meta-verse” is the feeling of presence.
  • “You will see their facial expressions, you will see their body language... All the subtle ways that we communicate that today’s technology can’t quite deliver.”

Who else is talking about metaverse?

  • Video games company Epic Games, software giant Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia are some of the companies that have been talking about meta-verse.
  • In a recent interview to Harvard Business Review, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella said he sees the metaverse idea being fundamentally about this: “increasingly, as we embed computing in the real world, you can even embed the real world in computing”.
  • Venture capitalist Matthew Ball wrote an essay last year: “What’s important is to recognise the meta-verse isn’t a game, a piece of hardware, or an online experience.
  • This is like saying World of Warcraft, the iPhone, or Google is the Internet. They are digital worlds, devices, services, websites, etc. The Internet is a wide set of protocols, technology, tubes and languages, plus access devices and content and communication experiences atop them. Meta-verse will be too.”

What are Facebook’s hopes with respect to metaverse?

  • Within the next decade, Mr. Zuckerberg wants the meta-verse to reach a billion people.
  • Toward this, the company plans to sell virtual reality devices at cost or at subsidised rates, and offer developer and creator services with low fees.
  • Its metaverse ideas will likely emerge out of its work around virtual reality ideas such as Facebook Spaces.

What are critics saying?

  • Privacy is an area of concern because in an immersive environment, such as meta-verse, a lot more of one’s personality and information will be revealed.
  • Social media platforms, like Facebook, essentially make their money through targeted advertisements.
  • It will pose new challenges for lawmakers to deal with the unprecedented form of abuse it can lead to.

Way Forward

The pace and speed of invention and development in ICT around the world through helping in better lives and connecting throughout the globe also brings new challenges in the form of digital inequality, privacy invasion, net neutrality, and taxation issues. The law and order and legislations around the world equally needed to be flexible and foresightedness to match the speed of evolving technologies.


Source: The Hindu

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