What is metadata?
In a recent discussion revolving around what the term metadata actually meant, I began to ask myself how much I truly understand about the term. My rudimentary definition would state that: metadata is a collection of data which describes an object or document; such that when attempting to retrieve or identify described document, the individual nature of the object can be ascertained. The metadata relies on the existence of the object and should be complete in such a way that if it is removed from the original there should be no question as to its origin. As for a non-library science definition:
Metadata is data that describes other data. See also schema. The term “metadata” is often used in reference to information which describes data of non-textual nature, such as images, sound clips, and video clips.
Laplante, Philip A. ed. Dictionary of Computer Science, Engineering, and Technology. CRC Press: New York,. 2001. p. 307.
As far as I can tell, the term metadata was applied in its modern context by a Bernard Plagman. In his work An Integrated Coporate Data Base Concept and its Application, the term meta-data was used in the example “date about data” or for those things which describe the data and are non-variable.
Plagman, B. and Altshuler, G. 1972. An Integrated Corporate Data Base concept and its application. In Proceedings of 1972 ACM-SIGFIDET Workshop on Data Description, Access and Control ACM Press, New York, NY, 395-420. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/800295.811500
Does this conclude the discussion on what metadata could be? No. But I always feel that a solid foundation to your understanding, is the best approach to building upon a term.