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Metadata and understanding

Short KM World article by David Weinberger:

Traditionally, metadata has been used to help people find data. The metadata on a card in a library catalog is there to help patrons locate books on shelves. Metadata could do little more because metadata was a reduction of information: A 600-page book is boiled down to a few facts that fit on a 3x5 card.

But in the digital world, there's little reason to boil things down. Metadata can be expansionist. It can include the entire text of the book. It can include the text of a biography of the author of the book. It can include a map of the places the author of the biography of the author once visited. Why not? Suppose someone wants to find the book written by the subject of the biography written by that guy who used to live in Slough?

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