If we take a close look at modern civilisation, we will conclude that the world is currently experiencing the Information Era, where knowledge is everything and everywhere. The proper management of knowledge presupposes the existence of mechanisms for organising information, in order to match the appropriate pieces together. Unfortunately, the Internet is full of (mostly) uncategorised information and a human simply cannot absorb and process the increasingly huge amount of data available. This is the reason why computers are utilised to gather and present knowledge in a more streamlined manner, so that people are able to browse through the findings in a faster and more convenient manner.
XML and all technologies that are based on it, provide the facilities for electronic devices – even of different nature – to communicate with each other and exchange data in a commonly acceptable manner. This is really important especially when it comes to making machines responsible for information gathering and the delivery of coherent results that a human can understand and rely upon. For this purpose, the metadata technique of tagging data with extra information has proven to be quite useful, especially when we demand correct automated query response. Nevertheless, there are still certain problems that remain unresolved.
The current drawbacks of meta-tagging sum up to three factors of the human nature: responsibility, credibility and objectivity. When people publish information on the Internet, they do not always take the time to label and organise them based on the existing standards for each category, thus making their meaning vague for a computer. This lack of responsibility can be avoided by utilising predefined methods for posting and manipulating elements on the Web, so that they can carry at least some basic tagging.
Even if this problem is surpassed, no one can guarantee that the categories and tags that the user has selected are appropriate for each object, because not everyone is a field expert on everything they post on-line. There have to be certain non-profit consortiums which will agree on very specific predefined tags so that confusion about metadata can be avoided.
Finally, the biggest problem of all is objectivity. Even for an organised consortium of scientists and field experts it would be amazingly difficult to agree on a common methodology for characterising every possible piece of information out there. The only way to prevent the debates from reaching a total deadlock is to try and be very specific but at the same time leave room for reasonable doubt, because even what is considered as “common knowledge” is revised and corrected every day.
Philosophy and Sociology will play an important role in the definition of most data categories (e.g. ideas and concepts) which are unsubstantial by nature. The Semantic Web project is already trying to organise information in standardised structures called Ontologies. This will create common ground for all scientists who want to share information in order to conduct more accurate research. As time passes, this standardisation will play a significant role in information categorisation and exchange. Hopefully humanity will soon be able to access this never-ending “Web” of knowledge and get all the information it requests, immediately and safely.
(Original post: http://k-gk.blogspot.com/2006/11/future-of-metadata.html)