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Cultural content metadata: State of the art

(État des lieux sur les métadonnées relatives aux contenus culturels)

November 6, 20196 November 2019

Digital technologies and the arts

Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Québec


Christine Routhier and Marik Danvoye

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What is metadata? The report cites the Wikipedia definition (“data information that provides information about other data”) and a definition from Quebec’s Office de la langue française (“data that provides information on the nature of certain other data and thus enables relevant uses”).

Why is metadata important in the cultural sector? The report indicates that metadata can “facilitate the discoverability and visibility of [cultural] content, the measurement of its supply and demand, and the remuneration of rights holders”:

  • Discoverability: The report indicates that there is poor understanding in the cultural sector of the use and importance of metadata in allowing cultural content to come to the fore in a search engine from a related or tangential search, not just a direct search for specific cultural content.
  • Remuneration of rights holders: The report outlines the importance of this issue, particularly in the audiovisual and sound recording sub-sectors.
  • Measuring the supply of and demand for digital cultural content: Three key measurement challenges are “the reconciliation of heterogeneous data from various sources, which may sometimes take the form of big data, access to data belonging to private or foreign companies, and the difficulty of distinguishing Quebec cultural content from all content consumed in Quebec”.

The consultations revealed that the cultural sector’s “understanding of the potential for metadata exploitation is generally poor”. The understanding and use of metadata vary by cultural sub-sector, with the strongest understanding being in the books and library sub-sector. On the other hand, in the performing arts, “there are low levels of knowledge and use of metadata”.

The report calls on cultural stakeholders to “develop a shared vision for the use of metadata” and “address the challenges of the quality of the metadata produced as well as its interoperability”. The report argues that “some form of governance would probably deserve to be put in place”, thereby ensuring greater knowledge of the importance of cultural metadata, the creation of “good practice” guides, and enhanced collaboration within and across cultural sub-sectors.

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