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Information 2012, 3(4), 790-808;

On the Origin of Metadata

ELIS-Multimedia Lab, Ghent University-iMinds, Ghent 9000, Belgium
Information & Communication Department, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels 1050, Belgium
MICT, Ghent University-iMinds, Ghent 9000, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 August 2012 / Revised: 3 December 2012 / Accepted: 4 December 2012 / Published: 7 December 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Information: Its Different Modes and Its Relation to Meaning)
Full-Text   |   PDF [87 KB, uploaded 7 December 2012]


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. View Full-Text
Keywords: metadata; evolution; information; semantics; Darwin metadata; evolution; information; semantics; Darwin
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Mannens, E.; Verborgh, R.; Van Hooland, S.; Hauttekeete, L.; Evens, T.; Coppens, S.; Van de Walle, R. On the Origin of Metadata. Information 2012, 3, 790-808.

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