Bias makes ambigious metadata more useful, not less.

A comment on Christina’s blog made me think: “And for metadata to be useful, it has to be honest.” After reading lots of Lakoff, that just didn’t sound right. Thinking about it some more, I think bias is:
1. unavoidable with ambigious metadata (unambigious metadata are things like publication date, author. Ambigious metadata are things like topics or ratings, and can be a lot more useful.) There is always bias. Unbiased categorization is not possible.
2. a value-add. I find it more valuable if a friend that I know (whose biases I am familiar with) recommends me something than if a stranger does the same. Bias ads value to metadata. Or maybe that should be: Known bias increases the value of ambigious metadata.

That’s not really what I wanted to say though. More known bias means more valuable ambigious metadata. That’s more like it, although I feel I’m still missing something. It’s not just that knowing bias is good in a we-can’t-avoid-it-so-lets-know-it kind of way, it’s that bias in itself is good – it ads personality and flavour to metadata.

Is this something librarians have known all along?

4 thoughts on “Bias makes ambigious metadata more useful, not less.

  1. You see I’m not really sure about all this. But it’s like having strong opinions (but well thought out ones) is more interesting than not taking a stand; it’s like basing your decisions on emotional responses (a gut feel) is actually more efficient (according to theory of natural decision making) than calculating the pros and cons and trying to be “objective”. That’s what reading Lakoff makes me see again and again: objectivity? Out of the door! Cultural relativism! It’s like when you eat funny mushrooms and you see the world (literally) very differently. Or when you’re happy and colours seem so much more, well, colourful. People seem happier. We wouldn’t have that if we saw the world objectively.

  2. Lakoff says it’s not even theoretically *possible* for us to see or think about the world in any “objective” way: our views are not just coloured but generated by who we are.

  3. I’m seriously flattered that my comment was so thought-provoking, but I think you misunderstood the gist of what I was saying.

    I meant in the sense of META KEYWORD=”…” abuse, where people would put “Britney Spears nude, free Metallica mp3s, warez” solely for the sake of generating more traffic. Which is why most search engines disregard the tag these days.


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