ONE DATA POINT AT A TIME
I help arts and culture organizations transform and share their metadata to contribute to a more just, equitable, and representative society.
Metadata is information and information is power: the power to name, define, and control. I help organizations exercise this power responsibly and respectfully by developing strategies to bring their metadata and systems in line with their social justice goals.
Why is this necessary?
Explorers and colonists all over the world justified their dominance by describing the indigenous people they encountered and the people they enslaved as “savages.” They used language and misinformation to define these peoples as less than human, making it easier to attempt genocide and justify exploitation.
These biases are built into our language and information systems. They form the basis of our cultural institutions; they underlie decisions about what to collect and preserve, and they determine how artifacts are described and accessed and by whom.
While the wrongs of the past cannot be undone, the harm they cause can be mitigated.
Instead of naming and describing a group of people from an outsider’s perspective, we can ask them what they prefer to be called.
Instead of imposing our own conditions for access and discovery, we can respect traditional knowledge that determines who and under what conditions artifacts may be used or displayed.
We can return to disenfranchised people some of the power of naming and defining. Although these changes may seem small, metadata can help redress and heal historical injustices, one data point at a time.