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Ruben Verborgh

On the Origin of Metadata

by Erik Mannens, Ruben Verborgh, Seth van Hooland, Laurence Hauttekeete, Tom Evens, Sam Coppens, and Rik Van de Walle

Metadata has been around and has evolved for centuries, albeit not recognized as such. Medieval manuscripts typically had illuminations at the start of each chapter, being both a kind of signature for the author writing the script and a pictorial chapter anchor for the illiterates at the time. Nowadays, there is so much fragmented information on the Internet that users sometimes fail to distinguish the real facts from some bended truth, let alone being able to interconnect different facts. Here, the metadata can both act as noise-reductors for detailed recommendations to the end-users, as it can be the catalyst to interconnect related information. Over time, metadata thus not only has had different modes of information, but furthermore, metadata’s relation of information to meaning, i.e., “semantics”, evolved. Darwin’s evolutionary propositions, from “species have an unlimited reproductive capacity”, over “natural selection”, to “the cooperation of mutations leads to adaptation to the environment” show remarkable parallels to both metadata’s different modes of information and to its relation of information to meaning over time. In this paper, we will show that the evolution of the use of (meta)data can be mapped to Darwin’s nine evolutionary propositions. As mankind and its behavior are products of an evolutionary process, the evolutionary process of metadata with its different modes of information is on the verge of a new-semantic-era.

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Published in 2012 in Information.


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Cite this article easily using its BibTeX entry:

  author = {Mannens, Erik and Verborgh, Ruben and van Hooland, Seth and Hauttekeete, Laurence and Evens, Tom and Coppens, Sam and Van de Walle, Rik},
  title = {On the Origin of Metadata},
  journal = {Information},
  year = 2012,
  month = dec,
  volume = 3,
  number = 4,
  pages = {790--808},
  issn = {2078-2489},
  url = {http://www.mdpi.com/2078-2489/3/4/790/pdf},
  doi = {10.3390/info3040790},

Alternatively, pick a reference of your choice below:

E. Mannens, R. Verborgh, S. van Hooland, L. Hauttekeete, T. Evens, S. Coppens, and R. Van de Walle, “On the Origin of Metadata,” Information, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 790–808, Dec. 2012.
Erik Mannens et al. 2012. On the Origin of Metadata. Information 3, 4 (December 2012), 790–808.
Mannens, E., Verborgh, R., van Hooland, S., Hauttekeete, L., Evens, T., Coppens, S., Van de Walle, R.: On the Origin of Metadata. Information. 3, 790–808 (2012).
Mannens, E., Verborgh, R., van Hooland, S., Hauttekeete, L., Evens, T., Coppens, S., & Van de Walle, R. (2012). On the Origin of Metadata. Information, 3(4), 790–808.
Mannens, Erik et al. “On the Origin of Metadata.” Information 3.4 (2012): 790–808. Print.

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