Part of my (unassessed) coursework last week was about doing a subject analysis of images. As I learnt very quickly, indexing images is somewhat trickier that indexing written documents. There are no words that you can lift directly from the image, as you would with text. When you add to the mix that any given image will mean different things to different viewers, you realise quickly that indexing images is even more subjective than the indexing of texts. Rowley and Hartley (2008) sum it up with a great example:
“A set of pictures of Hardwick Hall (‘more glass than wall’) in Derbyshire might be of interest to historians, architects, art historians or to someone researching the history of windows; it is an example of Elizabethan architecture, and a source of hthe national history of the sixteenth-century English upper classes; the National Trust (its present owner) calls it ‘a magnificent statement of the wealth and authority of its builder, Bess of Hardwick’; and its setting might be studied by landscape historians, or by a film or television producer looking for a setting for a costume drama.” (Rowley and Hartley, 2008, p. 33)
Looking at images and trying to establish what they were about reminded me of the various social tagging projects and folksonomies that are out there on the Internet. This is another angle from which you can look at subject analysis of images.
By the way, when I searched for metadata and social tagging, I came across Metadata Games, where I wasted
a few minutes over an hour meticulously tagging images. (My favourite is Zen Tag. Try it. But only if you have time to spare. It is strangely addictive.) Of course, this wasn’t a waste of time at all, but I was adding to the pool of metadata about the collections of cultural heritage collections. This interview has more information about Metadata Games in particular.
As is becoming clear from the interview, social tagging, of course, is also relevant to digitisation. (And digitisation is another topic which we studied on the MSc last semester. I love it when all the different topics come together.) At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, digitisation is happening in many places but just having heaps of digitised images is no good. What we need is descriptive metadata to make documents easier to retrieve and to search. Can social tagging and crowdsourcing projects like Metadata Games help here? I think I would like to do a little more research into this. If you have any recommendations for papers I should read, let me know please!
I’m only just realising how huge the area of social tagging and folksonomies is. Moving away from images, can we, for example, use it to enhance library catalogues? Food for thought. (And a dissertation topic?!?)
ROWLEY, J. and HARTLEY, R., 2008. Organizing Knowledge. An Introduction to Managing Acess to Information. 4th ed. Farnham: Ashgate.