Magazine readers still have a hell of a time finding out about the stuff they see inside, don’t they?
First, they write it down. Then they get to a web connection (computer or iPhone if they’re lucky). Then they Google it– and that’s just to get started. The percentage that lose interest along the way is huge. I can’t imagine how frustrating this must be to the people featured inside.
Obviously, life just doesn’t include the metadata that the web does. If a friend brings over a bottle of wine for supper, we don’t know how it’s rated, or how much it cost. We know nothing.
I’ve spent so much time on the web now that I’m starting to feel this emptiness, almost a lack of context, in some places where metadata is absent. If I see something I find interesting, I’d like to catalogue it. If I’m interested in learning more about something I read, I’d like to read its Wikipedia article. Am I alone?
So much will change when this is possible. Our ability to grok complex subjects will increase, as will our capacity to detect bullshit or misinformation. Context gives rise to better and deeper communication (like the use of the word ‘grok,’ above).
We can see the rise of a lot of this just by the way we use Google Maps to direct us where we’re going. A lot of the conventions can go away if you have everything at your fingertips– we don’t need to ask for directions, for example. It goes without saying that we still need to doubt what the metadata is telling us, but if we have that solved, what then?
I think a willing suspension of context acquisition, like the suspension of disbelief when we see a movie, will arise. We’ll start using it more often to return our sense of wonder, to bring us back to the place from before we knew everything. And some context, such as private experience, cannot be absorbed into metadata.
Earlier this week I was at Morningside Estates, a bed and breakfast in the woods outside Victoria that’s absolutely gorgeous. I stayed for two days, didn’t login with foursquare, or upload many pictures. The experience was mine. It was more valuable because of that.
But here lies a dilemma. If I liked the experience, shouldn’t I want to share? Am I selfish for not, say, liveblogging it? Am I just reasonable? Where does the metadata begin, and where does the experience end?
Most importantly, how can I justify being private if I would like metadata to be available? Am I a hypocrite?