Errol Morris, unintentionally on metadata

Errol Morris (one of my favorite filmmakers in any genre) has a column in the NY Times today: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.

Perhaps this is a result of me staring too long into the sun (or into my own navel), but it seems to me that this column is, at its core, about metadata, and how metadata changes our relationship to the thing to which it refers.

Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all. Do pictures provide evidence? And if so, evidence of what?

I have often wondered: would it be possible to look at a photograph shorn of all its context, caption-less, unconnected to current thought and ideas?

…truth, properly considered, is about the relationship between language and the world, not about photographs and the world.

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One Response to Errol Morris, unintentionally on metadata

  1. Interesting parallel – I saw it as being all about contextual discourse, which might simply be my disciplinary equivalent of metadata. But here’s a question from an outsider who’s been staring into different suns: is metadata “intended” to be consumed alongside its object, or merely help you find it? Do we imagine that readers situate books within their LOC classifications while reading? I’ve studied genre as context, and certainly genre categories do what Morris is talking about, but do other less organically emergent categories matter to everyday readers?

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