Metadata provides structure and organization, both enabling and constraining searches, Big Data analysis and the use of other tools to look at what it tags. It’s sometimes invisible to users, often ignored by them in any case, and yet can heavily influence the materials they consider as well as the results they receive when applying analytic tools. There’s also a deep tension between having clear and consistent tags which convey information in a brief and precise manner, and tags which capture provisional or uncertain information or permit for the range of fuzziness which often arises in non-computing spaces. For example, the metadata on EEBO-TCP texts whose dates are conjectural defaults to the beginning of the century they were likely written in, meaning that various sorts of analysis will find spikes in 1501 or 1601 or 1701 because those dates match the metadata entries for these texts.
I’d like to invite a conversation between participants which considers both the practical, on-the-ground realities of making metadata for search and designing search tools to draw out the meaning of metadata, as well as the broader theoretical issues involved in placing a definitive tag on material which may be quite indefinite. (Does Shakespeare’s [i]King Lear[/i] receive a tragedy or history tag, for example?)