You may hear people talk about metadata. Essentially it is the data wrapped around data. Look at it this way: if you use your cell phone to take a photo, the image itself is the data. Your cell phone also has other data about the photo, such as where it was taken, when, what device took it, among other information and it is that data that is the metadata.
Why metadata is important is strikingly illustrated in this effort: Pathways Project. Pathways….
In the about section
…is a creative data project showing a month’s worth of geolocation data and message metadata collected from the mobile phones of Londoners. The aim of Pathways is to show what digital data looks like in the context of common relationships. Each of us is intimately and invisibly connected to the data we create, and as the number of internet-enabled devices increases, so does the amount of data generated. This is the reality within which Pathways is situated.
All participants willingly volunteered their data; data was retained solely for the duration of the project. Participants were found through a combination of in-person recruitment and email open calls.
Pathways was created by data researcher and artist Mimi Onuoha as part of the 2014-15 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. To learn more about the development process and the themes that inspired the project, see the project posts on National Geographic’s blog. To learn more about Mimi and her work, visit her personal website or follow her on Twitter.
You really should visit the Pathways Project to see how your life is measurable via metadata.
Some thoughts I had after viewing it:
- Your metadata represents you, like an outline, or your shadow. It is not every detail about you, just like a certain outline or certain clothing doesn’t describe all of you. But it does describe alot about you.
- Your destinations have purposes, and from these destinations, people can tell something about you. Few of us wander about randomly.
- You can be tracked indirectly from others you interact with.
- Your life is based on commitments, and those commitments can be determined from your metadata.
- The best way to avoid tracking and inferences is to be unpredictable and uncommitted. Unpredictability increases entropy. It makes it harder to codify you.